Will Tucker pursued many activities during his long life. He was the owner and chef at his popular “Rib Shack” back in the woods off Spalding Drive in the 1950s. He was a butcher and a tanner. He plowed fields. And, he was a father to ten children.
Tucker was born on July 4, 1895 in the Duluth area, and by 1930 had moved to a home on South Peachtree Street in Norcross. His cared for his ten children, six sons and four daughters, after his wife Emma passed away in the late 1930s.
Will had a few years of schooling but was self-taught at many jobs. He worked at the Sobeco tannery in Norcross for many years, and he had other side jobs as well. He bought a mule and used it to provide plowing for Norcross families.
He also learned to be a butcher, and through this provided a valuable service for farm families a round Norcross when many of them raised their own cattle and pigs. He also worked in this capacity for local groceries such as Garner’s Store.
More than a century ago, Isaac Liddell and his son John were farmers in the area near today’s intersection of Spalding Drive and Medlock Bridge Road, and John purchased several properties in the area, assembling over 50 acres of farmland and woods. After he passed away, his wife Matilda continued to live there, and Will Tucker, a friend of the Liddells, moved there when she was up in age to help take care of “Tildy” and her property. The Liddells did not have children or other close relatives, so she deeded the property over to him prior to her death in 1957, in appreciation for his help.
He built a small restaurant on the property, called the “Rib Shack”, that was open for many years on Friday and Saturday evenings, and many in the community would come there to eat, or to purchase his ribs to take home. He had a special barbeque sauce that he used, whose recipe was a closely-guarded secret for many years. He also built a lake on the property, where people could come to fish. He also furnished transportation for children in his area to attend the school for black children in Norcross during those years.
This was a time schools were segregated and Gwinnett county did not provide a great deal of support for the education of black children. At first Will drove the kids to school in his pickup truck, and later the county gave him an old bus to use, which he drove for several years.
Tucker sold the Spalding Drive property as the area began to develop, and moved to Langford Lane in Norcross, where he had a home, and where he provided homes for several of his daughters. He passed away in 1975, shortly after his 80th birthday.Marie and her son Marvin Rutledge Norcross Tannery, where Will Tucker worked