Future Georgia Governor Lester Maddox opened the Pickrick Restaurant in 1947 on the edge of the Georgia Tech campus. Specializing in fried chicken, the restaurant grew in popularity; by 1956, it seated 400 customers.
In 1949, Maddox began to promote his segregationist political ideology in “Pickrick Says” restaurant advertisements published in the Atlanta Journal. In April 1964, several African Americans tried to enter the restaurant and were threatened off the property by Maddox with “Pickrick drumsticks,” a euphemism for wooden axe handles.
"Maddox represents one particularly important moment of backlash in Atlanta’s civil rights struggle and the image of him recalcitrant wielding his ax handle at African Americans to integrate his restaurant speaks volumes about the opposition to the Civil Rights movement."
– Richard Harker, Community submission to Atlanta in 50 Objects
In July 1964, the day after President Lyndon Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964, three African American students tried to enter the Pickrick and test the new law— and Maddox escorted them off his property, pistol in hand. The event gained national attention and Maddox’s name became widely recognized. He took his cause to the courts and lost. Rather than integrate the Pickrick, Maddox closed his business.