Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Cafeteria owner who served Christmas breakfast to needy in Birmingham, Alabama dies
John H. Holcomb involved his kids

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

News staff writer

John H. Holcomb Jr., for many years the owner of Birmingham's Britlings Cafeteria, has died.
Mr. Holcomb was 94, family members said, and is survived by five adult children.

The cafeteria business was in the family blood. Mr. Holcomb inherited Britlings from his father, who owned the Birmingham-area locations of the chain that had its roots in the South. The cafeterias were part of a family business empire that included a Howard Johnson's motel on U.S. 78, and restaurants and motor inns in other parts of the state.

Britlings was well known in Birmingham for the annual Christmas breakfast it offered for those in need. Mr. Holcomb's father started the tradition during the Great Depression at the Third Avenue North location, and it continued until 1978, when Mr. Holcomb retired.

John Hudson Holcomb Jr. was born on April 14, 1915, in Dublin, Ga. His parents moved to Birmingham to operate a Studebaker automobile dealership. Mr. Holcomb graduated from Phillips High School and Georgia Tech. He worked in the chemicals industry out of the state until 1948, when his father summoned him back to Birmingham to help with the family business.
His five children, upon reaching 12 years of age, remember reporting for duty every Christmas morning at 6:30 a.m. to help prepare the annual breakfast. Over the years, the event attracted volunteers from outside the family who were inspired by its example.

"A great many people gave their time over the years to work with us on Christmas morning," said Mary Scott, one of Mr. Holcomb's four daughters.

Mr. Holcomb's son, also named John Holcomb, went into banking, rising to chief executive of Birmingham-based Alabama National BanCorp., which sold in 2008 to North Carolina-based RBC Banks.

"He was a wonderful businessman and a wonderful role model," John Holcomb said of his father.

Copyright, The Birmingham News

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