East Bay barbecue great Mary Everett dies at age 65

Mary Everett. Courtesy Shamar Cotton

The East Bay has lost another member of a legendary barbecue family.

Mary Everett, longtime owner of the Berkeley facility of family-run barbecue company Everett and Jones, died on September 25 at Kaiser Hospital in Oakland at the age of 65, according to her son Shamar Cotton. No cause of death was given.

Shamar Cotton told Nosh that his mother, known to her family as May, had many friends, loved Corvettes, and helped those less fortunate with an annual toy ride. “My mother was wonderful; She was a person who enjoyed it to the full, ”he said. “How many people could you say had a divorce party?”

“She just had a good heart,” said her son Terrell Cotton. “She was like a second mother to everyone who knew her.”

Everett’s loss comes just months after the death of her sister, restaurateur Dorothy King. King, who along with other members of her family owned Everett & Jones, ran the Jack London Square and MacArthur Boulevard locations of the popular restaurant. King died of breast cancer in March 2021 at the age of 69. She was known for distributing hundreds of free meals to those in need every week and for hiring former homeless or incarcerated people to work for the company.

Mary Everett and son Shamar Cotton. Photo credit: Shamar Cotton

Mary also ran her business with a charity side. “Part of their legacy is that we feed those who are less fortunate,” Shamar said. “She said we should always feed those in need who need a helping hand”

Everett’s toy ride was legendary. She was a fan of big parties and always had a dress-up party for her birthday in April. It was a gala affair with live music in places like the California Ballroom in Oakland. “The only thing she asked her guests to do is bring a toy for a child,” Shamar said. For more than 20 years, their toy campaign brought in hundreds of Christmas gifts for children who would otherwise have done without them.

Everett and Jones has been a BBQ fanatic for decades, and even starred in a Raiders-focused episode of the HBO football show Ballers, starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Location scouts for the show were looking “for authentic locations … in the Bay Area,” Shamar said. Everett and Jones were a natural choice, and Mary and a few friends ended up behind the counter in a 2017 episode that focused on the Raiders.

Everett and Jones was founded in Oakland in 1973 by King and Everett’s mother, Dorothy Turner Everett, also known as the “Queen of Modern Barbecue,” who started her business on welfare as a single mother with nine children. “I think opening a restaurant was her way of not worrying about her kids eating,” Mary said of her mother in a 2012 interview.

“A couple of Larry’s Meats friends helped my grandma,” Shamar said. “You gave her a loan to help her start the business and over 40 years later we’re still here and I’m the third generation.”

Mary’s family plans to continue serving great grilled dishes at the restaurant on San Pablo. “We’re going to carry on that legacy and keep the same authentic food, keep the same taste,” said Shamar. “I was born and raised in it, so this is part of me. I do not go anywhere.”

Mary Everett is survived by sisters Annie Jones, Hellen Bellamy, and Shirley Everett Dicko; Brother, George Allen Everett; Son Shamar Cotton, his wife Tibletse Cotton and their three children Ava (9), Reaia (7) and Delina (4); Son Terrell Cotton and daughter Rolanda Cook. A private memorial is planned. Maps and toys for the toy ride are welcome at the restaurant: 1955 San Pablo Ave. (on University Avenue), Berkeley.

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