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James Equilla Dengate


James Equilla Dengate

James Dengate, known as Jimmy, was born 11 December 1913 in Charleston, South Carolina, America. He was the son of James, a taxi driver, and Ophelia Dengate. Jimmy entered the bar business as a young man, working first at ‘The Hanover’ on Meeting Street, Charleston.

On 16 March 1938, Jimmy married Helen Corvette and the couple raised three children together: Helen Patricia, James ('Jimmy') and Frances. In 1952 Jimmy moved to uptown Charleston, where he opened his first business, ‘Jimmy’s Grill’ on Rutledge Avenue. He ran this business for more than twenty-five years and the establishment became very popular with locals. A local newspaper extract said of Jimmy: ‘Jimmy’s developed a reputation for delicious fried chicken and deviled crabs. However, if any patron was foolish enough to request iced tea or a take out order of food, Jimmy quickly told him, “This is a bar, not a restaurant!”


An article taken from the April 1987 edition of 'Fashion Magazine’, hanging on the wall in what was, in 2006, called ‘Jimmy Dengates’ tells of the strange beginnings of the restaurant: ‘Located on Rutledge Avenue in a boarded up building in a part of town distinguished by its lack of charm, Dengates has been an underground institution since the 20s, when owner Jimmy Dengate began serving food at his speakeasy. You still have to ‘purchase’ a key to eat there, available only on a Friday afternoon if you’re a first-timer and you’re supposed to be recommended by a patron even to be allowed a visit, but the fact that you know about the keys is usually enough to gain you entrance...’

Jimmy Dengate died 8 October 1978 at the age of 64. His wife, Helen Ruth Dengate died 5 November 2003 and was buried in the Catholic Church in Charleston.

Jimmy Dengates, Charleston, South Carolina, USA, 2006
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Some online memories of Jimmy Dengates in Charleston
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