Former basketball player makes comfort food a life

Published 4:08 pm Sunday, February 22, 2009

James Pope was born in Carrollton and finished high school there. Although he was offered a basketball scholarship to the University of Alabama, he, like most 18-year-olds, didn’t want to be red-shirted, so he chose Alabama State instead.

From there, he went to Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, where he earned his B.S. in hotel and restaurant management.

Still Pope wasn’t sure what he really wanted, so he went to Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo., and then to Lamar University in Beaumont, Texas, taking more and more classes.

He played basketball and supplemented his income by working in the food business. In 1990, thru a Michigan State University correspondence course, he became a certified food and beverage executive.

For his thesis, he wrote “World Peace thru Travel and Tourism,” and was chosen to be the student from Texas to go to Barbados for studies at the Cave Hill campus.

This was the real world of hotel and restaurant management.

As a founding member of the Alabama Stars in Huntsville (semi-pro basketball), Pope worked at Chi Chi’s Mexican Foods in Huntsville, Washington D.C. and New Orleans.

Next stop was Cucos, then to Birmingham as food and beverage director of the Holiday Inn. From the Holiday Inn he went to Cracker Barrel in Gardendale and then Tuscaloosa, where he discovered his true love of “country cooking.”

Next he worked at McAlister’s Deli for seven years and purchased a franchise with a partner. Pope was on his way.

His philosophy was to buy low, build the business up, smile, work your rear off and hope to sell high.

Burger King, with six locations in Montgomery, was the next stop for he and his partner.

Pope bought the Whitehouse Restaurant in Warrior and then leased the old Quarry Restaurant in Alabaster more than two years ago. It is now refurbished in the Whitehouse décor.

Do you like traditionally delicious southern food? Then go to the Whitehouse.

And try the peach pie, too.

On the personal side, James has three children — Micah, 25; Crystal, a sophomore at the University of Alabama; and 16-year-old Tyrone, a football player at Thompson High.

Pope is a friendly, tall and intelligent gentleman with southern manners to match that country food.

Sandra Thames is a community columnist for Alabaster. She can be reached by e–mail at