Alan Howell, a well-known local restaurateur who was fond of “The Andy Griffith Show”, politics and sailing, died on December 30 at the age of 72.
As a longtime Piney Flats resident, Howell was the owner of Dixie Barbeque in Johnson City, which was a favorite hangout for barbecue fans and local political gossip.
It closed its beloved restaurant on December 31, 2015, after more than 28 years of operation at its 3301 N. Roan St. location.
“Johnson City has been good to me,” Howell told this newspaper on Dixie’s last business day. “The Tri-Cities have been good to me. Many publications have written about us, from Southern Living to local newspapers like Johnson City Press. And we’ve had clients from all over the world, from Australia and Greenland to Japan, Germany and Tasmania, some of whom have come back over the years. “
Howell was born in Carter County, where his father, William “Dottie” Howell, worked as a labor organizer in the region. She graduated from Happy Valley High School and earned a bachelor’s degree in human resources from Steed College in 1973.
Howell worked in the local food and restaurant industry for many years. He operated Richard A’s on Walnut Street in Johnson City for several years before opening Dixie Barbeque in the late 1980s.
Dixie offered a menu that included grilled chicken and pork, potatoes and onions, and grilled beans. Howell also featured a traditional Brunswick stew and Alabama white sauce from recipes his friends gave him.
Howell insisted that beach music was always played at his restaurant, along with reruns of “The Andy Griffith Show” shown on two televisions inside the restaurant.
He was also a boating fanatic and often went on sailing trips in the Caribbean with friends and colleagues in the restaurant business.
“The beauty and artistry of sailing is just breathtaking,” Howell told reporters in 1998. “The idea of using the wind to get you where you want to go is idyllic and, on some days, almost spiritual.”
Howell was also a staunch Democrat, who enjoyed discussing politics with friends and clients on both sides of the political aisle. As the leader of the Sullivan County Democratic Party, Howell ran for his party’s nomination for the District of Tennessee’s first seat in Congress in 2006.
A memorial service for Howell will be held Thursday at 2 pm in the Tetrick Funeral Services Chapel. Your family will greet your friends in the Sunset Room at Tetrick Funeral Services after the funeral from 3 to 6 pm.