Crow’s Nest staying open in honor of Wilson

Published 12:00 am Saturday, January 12, 2013

The tantalizing waifs of wood-smoked barbecue emanating from Crow’s Nest BBQ in Andalusia won’t be extinguished following the passing of owner James C. Bobby Wilson.

Wilson, 68, died New Year’s Day in a Birmingham hospital.

“His body just kind of quit on him,” said Judy, his wife of 47 years. Wilson – known as Crow to the community – was a giving man, she said. When heart issues forced him to give up his offshore job in 1992, Crow decided to capitalize on his love of cooking – and the business that’s served locals for 20 years was born.

“He used to cook at home at lot for friends,” Mrs. Wilson said. “Friends would say, ‘Let’s go eat at ‘Crow’s Nest,’ talking about our house. That’s how the restaurant got its name.”

Since then, the Wilsons has served the community both at their restaurant and as Wilson Food Service, the catering company known for running the cafeteria at Shaw Industries.

“Bobby liked for people to enjoy food,” Mrs. Wilson said.

He also liked to hear about the lives of his customers.

“When someone came into the Nest to eat, and they weren’t from here, he’d know who they were; where they were going; how long they were staying, and remind them to stop back in when they came back through,” she said.

One such instance was a conversation with famed football great, Bart Starr. Mr. Wilson was famous for drinking coffee each morning at McDonald’s with fellow “Liar’s Club” members. Mrs. Wilson said the story was retold at her husband’s funeral of how he struck up a conversation with Starr one morning in McDonald’s and invited the man to come and eat at his restaurant. Some time later, a photo of Star arrived. Years later, she retold, local pediatrician Dr. Charles Eldridge and his family met Starr in a Birmingham restaurant. The conversation turned to “where you from?”

“Dr. Eldridge’s son said, ‘Oh, I bet you never heard of it.’ Starr said, ‘Try me,” Mrs. Wilson said. “When the answer was Andalusia. Star said, ‘That’s my favorite place to eat – at the Crow’s Nest.’

“Bobby just had that way about him,” she said.

But the heart problems that plagued him for years eventually caught up, she said. For the three months leading up to his death, her husband had to leave the restaurant he loved.

“He loved it, and it would have broken his heart to see it close,” Mrs. Wilson said. “Our plan now is to keep restaurant going as long as can. Our daughter Kelly (Hart) is running things now.”

Wilson was laid to rest a week ago yesterday, surrounded by the community he loved so much to serve.