Mattie L.J. Williams, 87, ran Brooklyn Park restaurant

April 05, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

Mattie L.J. Williams, who owned and operated a popular Brooklyn Park restaurant and recreational facility for nearly 50 years, died Monday of heart failure at North Arundel Hospital. She was 87.

When she opened Forest Hill Country Club on Cedar Hill in northern Anne Arundel County in 1940, "Miss Mattie" and her Southern-style cooking were instant attractions to carloads of customers from Baltimore and surrounding counties. On weekends, they would pack the restaurant and recreational facility that also included a dance pavilion, horseshoe pits and pool tables.

"She served down-home, North Carolina soul food that everybody seemed to enjoy and she loved to cook," said a daughter, Louise Jones-Johnson of Brooklyn Park who now operates the family business.

"You could smell that hickory smoke and folks came from all over to eat her barbecued ribs, homemade biscuits and corn bread, smoked ham hocks and beans and stewed tomatoes," said Mrs. Jones-Johnson, who described her mother as "extremely entrepreneurial."

She also said her mother "was a woman who was full of self-pride and always stressed to us when we were growing up the importance of an education and respect for others."

The original restaurant, which was replaced in 1950 with a larger building, sits on a 7-acre farm that Mrs. Williams purchased in 1939. She and her husband, Robert Williams, a railroad worker whom she married in 1941, farmed the land. Mr. Williams was killed in a 1959 railroad accident.

Mrs. Williams, a diminutive woman of 5 feet with a soft voice and no-nonsense demeanor, lived above the restaurant. She became semiretired about 10 years ago.

Marguerite Brooks and her husband, Clark, have been patrons of the restaurant for nearly 37 years. "She was a very, very pleasant lady," she said of Mrs. Williams.

Mrs. Brooks also remembered Mrs. Williams as a charitable neighbor. "If folks asked for help, she was right there to help them out," she said.

The former Mattie Louise Jones was born and raised in Union Chapel, N.C. She studied at Temple University and Hampton Institute before earning a bachelor's degree in 1931 from Bennett College in Greensboro, N.C.

She moved to Baltimore in the early 1930s to go to work in the Diamond Subway, a nightclub at Edmondson and Fremont avenues that was owned by her late brother.

"When the show at the Royal Theater ended, celebrities like Cab Calloway, the Ink Spots and other big stars who played the Chitlin' Circuit came over to the Diamond Subway for a floor show and dancing," said Mrs. Jones-Johnson.

Services will be held at 11: 30 a.m. Monday at Gary P. March Funeral Home, 270 Fredhilton Pass, Baltimore.

She is survived by two other daughters, Dorothy Cain-Blackwell of Baltimore and Joyce Jones of Glen Burnie; nine grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren.

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