Founder and CEO of Melvin’s Barbecue dies at age 89

Melvin Bessinger, shown in his James Island home, has died.

Melvin E. Bessinger, founder and CEO of Melvin’s Legendary Barbecue, died Monday. He was 89.

Born Aug. 16, 1923, in Orangeburg, he was the son of Joe J. Bessinger and Genora Thomas Bessinger. He received his bachelor’s degree from The Citadel in 1951.

Bessinger was an Army veteran of World War II. As a private, he fought in the invasion of Normandy and in the Battle of Saint Lo. He was a German prisoner of war and a survivor of the Death March. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star medal for his services.

Bessinger co-founded Eat at Joe’s Diner in Holly Hill in 1946. He later co-founded Piggy Park Drive-Ins and Bessingers Barbecue. He trademarked the Bessinger family recipe for the sauce as The Original Golden Secret Barbecue Sauce. In the 1990s, Melvin established Melvin’s Legendary Barbecue, which has grown to two Charleston-based locations.

Survivors include his wife, Betty Prine Bessinger; his son, Melvin D. Bessinger; and his daughter, Stephanie B. Williams.

A funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. Thursday at The Citadel’s Summerall Chapel. Arrangements are being handled by Stuhr’s Downtown Chapel of Charleston.