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 R.I.P. Joe Pope

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Michael Stern

R.I.P. Joe Pope Thu, 12/9/04 7:42 PM (permalink)
Roger Stolle of Clarksdale, Mississippi, sent us this sad note today:

Sorry to pass on sad news from Dr. Luther Brown at Delta State:

With great sadness, I report the passing of Joe Pope, owner of The White Front Café in Rosedale, Mississippi, and tamale chef par excellence. Joe was 80 years old. He died of heart failure last Friday, and his funeral will be held this Saturday, December 11, at noon in the Riverside Baptist Church in Rosedale. There will be a wake from 5-7 on Friday at the same church.

The White Front Café is an icon of the Delta. It has been written about in Gourmet Magazine, which described it as “not to be missed.” It is one of just a few Deep South eateries to be listed in the Gourmet Guide to Road Food, and has been applauded by food writers from around the World.

Leslie Kelly, of the Commercial Appeal, wrote on her web log “Took a trip to the Delta on Tuesday for a special dinner …and had the best tamales. Got them at Joe Pope's place, the White Front Cafe inRosedale. Been making those beef and masa tamales for more than 30 years now.” Ms Kelly subsequently returned to Rosedale and wrote a lengthy article in the Commercial Appeal about Delta tamales, featuring several great pictures taken at Joe Pope’s store.


Joe Pope’s death marks the passing of another icon of the Delta, and is mourned by all who knew him, visited his store, or sampled his work.

    Ort. Carlton.

    • Total Posts: 3589
    • Joined: 4/9/2003
    • Location: Athens, GA
    RE: R.I.P. Joe Pope Thu, 12/9/04 11:02 PM (permalink)
    Michael (And Dearfolk),
    The man just looks like he knows what he's doing: he exudes that quiet confidence of a real master. He will surely be missed. Thanks for making light of this.
    Is there anyone waiting in the wings to carry the place on in some sort of like manner?
    Wonderingly, Ort. Carlton in Homemade-Tamala-less (as far as I have been able to discern) Athens, Georgia.

      • Total Posts: 1508
      • Joined: 9/19/2000
      • Location: Fresno, CA
      RE: R.I.P. Joe Pope Fri, 12/10/04 2:10 AM (permalink)
      Sorry to hear of the passing.. no doubt he will be missed.
        Michael Stern

        RE: R.I.P. Joe Pope Fri, 12/10/04 3:10 AM (permalink)
        I don't know if this is the end of the White Front Cafe. I suspect it is, but we are on our way to the Delta soon and will see for sure.

          • Total Posts: 2075
          • Joined: 2/13/2002
          • Location: Marietta, GA
          RE: R.I.P. Joe Pope Fri, 12/10/04 5:41 AM (permalink)
          Are we talking about the same Rosedale that's halfway between Clarkdale and Greenville? If so that's about 100 miles or so from the Delta. I was planning a road food trip to that area in a few weeks and wanted to stop at the White Front. BTW, RIP Joe Pope and hope your legacy stays open.
            Extreme Glow

            RE: R.I.P. Joe Pope Fri, 12/10/04 7:33 AM (permalink)
            In Mississippi, "The Delta" refers to the Mississippi River alluvial floodplain between Memphis and Vicksburg. So, Rosedale is IN the Delta, not 100 miles away. A misnomer as it's not technically a delta but certainly a cherished traditional name for a unique part of America.

              • Total Posts: 388
              • Joined: 3/8/2004
              • Location: Powhatan, VA
              RE: R.I.P. Joe Pope Fri, 12/10/04 9:36 AM (permalink)
              Originally posted by Michael Stern

              I bet there was something mighty good in that pot on the stove!


                • Total Posts: 4135
                • Joined: 7/7/2003
                • Location: Rentiesville, OK
                RE: R.I.P. Joe Pope Fri, 12/10/04 10:37 AM (permalink)
                Yep--you can steam a mess of tamales in a pot that big! & it looks to me like a pot that spent more then a few hrs over a flame!! I never met the man--but know what i do about the folks here and what they say about the man and his food--i am saddened by his passing and i recognize that we that are left have a void in our world that will be difficult if not inpossible to fill. My condolences to his family,blood and extended.
                  Route 11

                  • Total Posts: 752
                  • Joined: 5/28/2003
                  • Location: Howardsville, VA
                  RE: R.I.P. Joe Pope Fri, 12/10/04 10:43 PM (permalink)
                  With a stove like that, you know something good's on the way.

                    • Total Posts: 5360
                    • Joined: 7/1/2003
                    • Location: FarEasternPanhandle, WV
                    • Roadfood Insider
                    RE: R.I.P. Joe Pope Sat, 12/11/04 1:05 AM (permalink)
                    What pot are you people refering to? I see no pot.

                    I would never thought of the Delta to know much about tamales???

                      carlton pierre

                      • Total Posts: 2500
                      • Joined: 7/12/2004
                      • Location: Knoxville, TN
                      RE: R.I.P. Joe Pope Sat, 12/11/04 11:55 AM (permalink)
                      Michael, I certainly hope you will advise if the White Front Cafe will remain open. I get to the delta several times a year. It is the Mecca of American Music.
                        the Big Ferret

                        • Total Posts: 25
                        • Joined: 7/9/2002
                        • Location: Chesapeake, VA
                        RE: R.I.P. Joe Pope Fri, 02/18/05 8:12 AM (permalink)
                        Any word on the status of the White Front? I'm going to the Delta in a couple of weeks and had hope to stop by the place.
                          Extreme Glow

                          RE: R.I.P. Joe Pope Sat, 02/19/05 11:14 AM (permalink)
                          Here's a blog post from the Memphis Commercial Appeal:

                          Posted by: WILLIA POPE JOHNSON at December 30, 2004 11:47 PM"

                          Let's hope it is true.

                            • Total Posts: 1499
                            • Joined: 8/6/2003
                            • Location: Port St Lucie, Fl
                            RE: R.I.P. Joe Pope Sun, 02/20/05 9:43 PM (permalink)
                            I'm very curious. I certainly never associated Mississippi with tamales. I wonder how a Mississippi black man became a tamale chef.
                              Extreme Glow

                              RE: R.I.P. Joe Pope Mon, 02/21/05 12:26 PM (permalink)
                              Corn meal was and is an important ingredient in Southern cooking. When you are poor (and desperately so after the Civil War), corn meal is a cheap and filing food. However, this poor diet caused a lot of pellagra (niacin deficiency) in the South.

                              The story is that a Mexican national making his way up from Texas introduced the idea of the tamale to the Delta region. However, I would tend to more likely believe that the idea was brought back by veterans of the Mexican-American war.
                                Kristi S.

                                • Total Posts: 712
                                • Joined: 7/23/2002
                                • Location: St. Petersburg/Tampa, FL
                                RE: R.I.P. Joe Pope Mon, 02/21/05 1:42 PM (permalink)
                                Love the old stove in the picture. Those things never break down if you take care of them.
                                  the Big Ferret

                                  • Total Posts: 25
                                  • Joined: 7/9/2002
                                  • Location: Chesapeake, VA
                                  RE: R.I.P. Joe Pope Sat, 03/12/05 12:24 PM (permalink)
                                  Stopped by the White Front last Monday and it was open for lunch and serving outstanding tamales.
                                    Extreme Glow

                                    RE: R.I.P. Joe Pope Sun, 03/13/05 9:13 AM (permalink)
                                    The King is dead. Long live the Queen!
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