Donnie Lee Lindsey, longtime bishop within the Church of God in Christ (COGIC) in Arkansas and noted businessman, founded the regionally famous Lindsey’s Barbecue in North Little Rock (Pulaski County). He was inducted into the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame in 2015.
Donnie Lee Lindsey was born in Bluff City (Nevada County) on April 17, 1924, to Newton Lindsey and Anna Lindsey. His father was a sharecropper. By the 1930 census, he had one brother and four sisters. The family moved to the Maumelle (Pulaski County) area when Lindsey was four years old. In an interview with the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Lindsey described himself as a rebellious youth who dropped out of school, only returning at age seventeen to attend the ninth grade. In junior high school and high school, he worked at Johnson’s Barbecue in Little Rock (Pulaski County). In 1943, he fought in World War II. The following year, he felt himself being called to the ministry, and when he returned from the war, he entered Arkansas Baptist College in Little Rock, earning a BA in 1949. He later undertook graduate work at Fisk University in Tennessee and at what is now Tuskegee University in Alabama.
Lindsey married Irma Moore on September 1, 1946; they had three children.
His first pastorate was at the England Church of God in Christ in England (Lonoke County), starting in 1951. In 1959, he transferred to Revelation Church of God in Christ in Carlisle (Lonoke County). In 1967, Lindsey began serving in a larger administrative capacity within COGIC, taking on the position of Jurisdictional Sunday School Superintendent. In 1972, he organized the Emmanuel Mission in North Little Rock, and the following year he was appointed as the first administrative assistant of the bishop of the Second Jurisdiction of Arkansas. In 1974, he was made bishop of that jurisdiction, holding the office until 2009, when he retired as bishop. The next year, he was made the pastor of what later became New Calvary Temple in North Little Rock. He took on the position of senior pastor at The Worship Center COGIC, also in North Little Rock, a mission of New Calvary. During his time as bishop, he also filled in on an interim basis in other jurisdictions within the state.
Lindsey also held jobs outside the church, including serving as a teacher and as the principal of George Washington Carver School in Allport (Lonoke County). However, he is perhaps best known as the proprietor of Lindsey’s Barbecue in North Little Rock, which he started in 1956. The restaurant became a North Little Rock staple. In 1975, shortly after having been appointed bishop, he sold the restaurant to a nephew, Richard Lindsey (one of the North Little Rock Six). Lindsey entered the food service business again in 1989 when he opened Lindsey’s Hospitality House, which was a home-cooking and barbecue restaurant that offered catering services and a banquet hall. Lindsey’s son Donnie Jr. eventually took it over. In 2007, the original Lindsey’s Barbecue was destroyed by fire. The business at 207 Curtis Sykes Dr. in North Little Rock became known as Lindsey’s BBQ & Hospitality House.
Lindsey has also served on a number of local, regional, and state boards, including the Arkansas State Labor Board. He was the Coordinator of Citizens Participation in the Model Cities Program and on the Governor’s Commission on School District Reorganization, as well being the first African American to serve on the North Little Rock City Council, the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, and the board of directors of the North Little Rock Boys and Girls Club. He holds an honorary doctorate degree from Arkansas Baptist College and from Shorter College.
For additional information:
“Bluff City Native Named to Arkansas Black Hall of Fame.” HopePresscott.com, October 8, 2015. http://www.hopeprescott.com/bluff-city-native-named-to-arkansas-black-hall-of-fame/ (accessed March 3, 2017).
Williams, Helaine R. “Bishop/Barbecue Master Set to Join Hall of Fame.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, October 11, 2015, pp. 1E, 6E.
Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture