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Lem's Bar-B-Q Owner James Lemons Dies

 BBQ icon James B. Lemons, owner of Lem's BBQ at 311 East 75th St., has died.
BBQ icon James B. Lemons, owner of Lem's BBQ at 311 East 75th St., has died.
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GRAND CROSSING — Chicago has lost a barbecue legend. 

James B. Lemons, the owner of Lem’s Bar-B-Q House at 311 E. 75th St. died Sunday morning at 87.

According to a Facebook post from his friend George Davis, brothers Bruce and Miles Lemons opened the very first Lem's on 59th Street in 1951. It was the first place in town to serve rib tips. 

The brothers opened the 75th Street location in 1967, and it's the only Lem's that remains today. 

"Mr. Lemons was a man who believed in his community," said Shirley Calahan of Calahan Funeral Home. "He had some of the best barbecue sauce known to man. The No. 1 barbecue sauce."

James Lemons and his four brothers grew up in Indianola, Miss., where their mother taught them how to cook — and slaughter hogs, Davis said. At 14, he followed his brothers to Chicago and into the barbecue business.

His older brother, Miles — also known as "Lem" himself — quickly built a reputation in the city. People flocked to the spot for their Mississippi-style barbecue and famous sauce, which originated from their mother's recipe.

James Lemons was the last brother to run the family business. He is survived by his son William and daughters Carmen and Patricia. 

"Mr. Lemons served his family well. He was a family man," Calahan said. "He suppored other black businesses in the community. ... He should not be forgotten because he stayed in the community. He did not become successful and leave the comunity."

James Lemons' viewing is scheduled for Thursday at Calahan Funeral Home, 7030 S. Halsted St., from 4 to 7 p.m. His visitation and funeral will be held at New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church, 754 E. 77th St. The visitation is from 6 to 7:30 p.m., and the funeral is from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m.

His burial is scheduled for Saturday. The community is invited to meet at Lem's, 311 E. 75th St. at 10 a.m. From there, they will go to Evergreen Cemetery, 3401 W. 87th St. in southwest suburban Evergreen Park.

For more information, call Calahan Funeral Home at (773) 723-4400 or New Covenant Missionary Baptist Church at (773) 846-3700. 

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