Editor's Note: Rich's Hamburgers was sold to the Motes family more than three decades ago. The original version of this story did not mention that detail, as it was meant to be a retrospective of Richard Warriner Sr.'s time as owner/operator of the restaurant. However, at the request of the Motes family, we are including this note.
Mentioning the word hamburger in Pine Bluff conjures up one image: Rich's Hamburger stand. The founder of this Pine Bluff culinary staple died recently at the age of 97.
Richard William Warriner Sr. was a Pine Bluff native. In the early 1940s, he moved to St. Louis, where he attended Brayton Air College and became an airplane mechanic. He then returned to Pine Bluff and went to work at the Aviation School at Grider Field while it was a World War II training base.
This began his lifelong passion for aviation and his love of aircraft. Throughout his life, Warriner shared this passion with many others through hosting airshows at Grider Field, teaching others to fly and taking anyone who asked for rides in one of his many airplanes, including his beloved World War II Stearman.
In 1961, he founded Rich's Hamburgers, a long-standing Pine Bluff institution. In 1976, Warriner received recognition from the National Restaurant Association and in 1981, he was honored with the Salut Au Restaurateur Award from Florida State University and Florida Restaurant Association for outstanding accomplishment in the restaurant industry, community service and leadership.
In 1989, he was inducted into the Arkansas Hospitality Association's Hall of Fame.
A lifelong member of Trinity Episcopal Church, he served two terms on the Vestry. Warriner was also a past-president of the Arkansas Restaurant Association, chairman of the Pine Bluff Aviation Commission and served on the Pine Bluff Advertising and Promotional Commission and the Convention Center Complex Commission.
But it's perhaps those famous burgers that made Warriner so memorable.
“Rich's Hamburgers is one of the last of the working man's burger counters in the state,” said Kat Robinson, author of numerous books on Arkansas food and an authority on the state's cuisine.
“The diminutive yellow building with its orange sign has never had a dining area, no room additions, no big kitchen expansions. Nothing has changed about the restaurant in its nearly 60 years of existence, except for the slight and understandable creep in prices over the decades... the food is good... ."
On social media, the outpouring of love and support for Warriner and his family has been large.
Karen Donham Caldwell wrote on The Commercial's Facebook post about Warriner's passing: “Being from Monticello, I have fond memories of traveling to Little Rock and always stopping at Rich's for a burger with pickles and mustard only. Deepest sympathy going out to the family.”
Dorothy Rowland wrote: “My condolences to the family. Best Hamburger place and shakes. Our family love it. Rest In Peace.”
Shandra LaTri wrote: “Thank you, Mr. Warriner, for all the wonderful memories made at your establishments as a girl growing up in PB. Delicious times that I was able to extend to my husband and children years later. Rest in peace.”
Gwendolyn Jones wrote: “Nothing like getting one of those cheeseburger specials going home and ripping into it. The prices were great and they were soooo good. RIP. You left us with fond memories.”
Tam Maxwell Huffman wrote: “They had the best hamburgers and ice cream. That was me and my Dads hangout. Great childhood memories. Thoughts and Prayers to family.”
Sherri Worthen Todd wrote: “So sorry for the family loss…I ate at Rich's every week..I was a “regular” .when I would drive up, they would sit my order out on the window ledge..always with a smile….TRUE CUSTOMER SERVICE!!”
Donna Harvison Dycus wrote: “Best burgers I've ever eaten!! I remember Dad going there every Friday night to get the 5 for $1.00 deal back in the 60's! It was such a treat!! I still go there whenever I'm in PB and food is still the best around! God bless this family and bring them peace!!”
The funeral service will be held at 2 p.m. Wednesday at Trinity Episcopal Church with the Reverends Darrell Stayton and C. B. Baker officiating. Interment will follow at Graceland Cemetery by Ralph Robinson & Son Funeral Directors.
Immediately following the burial service, all are invited to join the family for a celebration of Richard's life at the Trinity Church Parish Hall.
Memorials may be made to the Grider Field Museum Association, 200 Haynes Dr., Pine Bluff, AR 71603; or Trinity Episcopal Church, 703 West Third Avenue, Pine Bluff, AR 71601. Online condolences may be made at RalphRobinsonandSon.com