Honorary Street Naming for “Big John” Robinson
Peoria’s first self-made Black millionaire
Family, friends and dignitaries gathered on Wednesday, September 23rd on the corner of Kumpf Blvd. and Martin Luther King Drive for the honorary street naming for “Big John” Robinson, Peoria’s first self-made Black Millionaire.
I would just like to take a couple of minutes to thank everyone who helped make Honorary Big John Robinson Way, a reality. This honor is not just for me and my family; it’s for Peoria, ALL of Peoria. I want our young people to see that there is still success to be found right here. If you have the desire and the passion, you CAN be successful. This sign stands as a testament to the power of believing in one’s self and living out their dream. Rest in Peace, Dad, your legacy will live forever,” says son Rev. Barry John Robinson
In 1950, “Big John” Robinson and his wife Mary opened John’s Bar-B-Q in a small house on the 700 block of Monson Street, now Kumpf Boulevard. “Big John” didn’t have an extensive education, but he did have a great work ethic, business savvy, and a winning personality and smile to go with the best Bar-B-Q in the City.
People started coming from near and far to hear “Big John” say, “Thanks a lot y’all. Y’all have enough to eat?” His business grew so much that by the early 1970’s, it was the largest and best known Black business in the community, and was awarded “The 1976 Small Businessman Award of the Year.” In May 1976, the entire front page of the Chicago Tribune wrote about Big John’s Bar-B-Q as well as other feature articles in over 200 newspapers.
Big John” achieved celebrity status as Peoria’s first self-made Black millionaire, was interviewed on Paul Harvey and became a philanthropic man donating food and money wherever it was needed. Economically, no other African-American had a great impact on Peoria’s community than Big John’s Bar-B-Que, employing over 20 employees for over 40 years and impacting over 1,000 lives over two generations.