Louisville’s favorite restaurant, Cunningham’s, has lost it’s favorite waiter. Raymond E. Poole died January 31, at age 81. “Poole,” as he was affectionately known by friends and generations of satisfied customers, began working at age 14, when the restaurant was located at the corner of Fifth and Breckenridge Streets. Except for a brief stint in the military, during the Korean War, Poole worked at Cunningham’s continuously, until his health forced him into retirement a couple of years ago.
An iconic symbol of Southern gentility and hospitality, the restaurant dates back to 1870, and is named for a somewhat shady Louisville Police captain, who, it is said, provided customers with any number of delicacies, not listed on the menu. Several of the upstairs “dining rooms” came equipped with beds; and there is no indication Cunningham’s Famous Manhattans ceased to be served to thirsty patrons during Prohibition.
By the time Poole came on board, Cunnningham's was well known in Louisville for serving up delicious country food; including specialties like fried chicken, hot brown, veal and turkey sandwiches. Every wall in the restaurant is decorated with old photographs of Louisville and its leaders. One wall contains pictures of all the Kentucky Derby winners.
Poole was famous around these parts because of his gentle, friendly manner; and his uncanny ability to remember each customer’s order precisely—without ever writing anything down. He could deliver piping hot food to a table of six, in one of Cunningham’s little dining rooms, and never make a mistake. Regular patrons would just ask for Poole and order “the usual,” and the waiter would bring his exact order, every time.
In addition to working at Cunningham’s, Poole owned and operated the LaCommode Tavern, in Louisville. The tavern gained some unwanted notoriety back in 1985, when Poole became the victim of some governmental corruption, during the administration of Mayor Harvey Sloane.
Earl Thurman Glass was Executive Director of the Office of Licenses and Permits for the City of Louisville, and was in charge of the regulation and licensing of liquor establishments. Glass apparently shook down Poole for a $500 bribe, to “take care” of an alleged liquor violation. Poole paid by check, and reported it to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
After the FBI investigated, Glass was indicted—and subsequently convicted—on six (6) counts of violations of the Hobbs Act, Title 18, United States Code, Section 1951. The case went all the way to the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, where the jury verdict against Glass was upheld. Glass went to prison.
Services for Mr. Poole were held Wednesday morning at his church, Marrs Memorial Baptist Church, and he was buried in the Kentucky Veteran’s Cemetery, at Radcliff, Kentucky. Survivors include his wife, Elsie Poole; children, Sharon Bond (Phillip), Shelia Poole, and Shelton Poole (Enid); five grandchildren and one great grandchild. He also leaves to mourn John Cowden and his children. Online condolences can be posted at www.@adporters
A condolence posted Monday, from a Ms. Lisa Moreman Lea, of Troy, Ohio, does as good a job of expressing our sentiments as we could ever do: “Thank you Mr. Poole. You made Cunninghams, and the world a nicer place.”