If you ask those who came through Central High School, they’re likely to tell you their most talked-about football icon is someone who has never played a single game. She is, however, a hall-of-famer.
June Maxwell is the recipient of the Beverly Raines Award and her name is etched in the Georgia High School Coaches Hall of Fame in the Dalton Convention Center.
At 86, “Mama June” admits she’s never been much of an athete but that doesn’t keep her from scoring a touchdown in the kitchen, especially when it comes to cooking up her famous buttermilk-battered country-fried chicken on Friday nights.
The Maxwells from Roopville have been a part of the Central schools for decades. The track is named in honor of Mama June’s late husband Billy R. Maxwell, who she was married to for 65 years until his death in 2006. His twin brother Bobby also contributed to the school. There is also a little street called June Mawell Commemorative Drive. Mama June speaks with pride when she tells how her six children and most of her grandchildren have come through the Central schools.
“Two of them are still here and just won’t leave,” she laughed. “One of my girls, Nancy, is the guidance counselor and then there’s Lorie, who is the nurse.”
It was Mama June’s son Luke who led her to start serving up meals for the players and cheerleaders 40 years ago when he joined the football team. It is estimated that she has cooked for more than 4,000 players and coaches to date. Amazingly, she remembers most by name and face and is proud to know that she’s now feeding the sons of some of the players who were on the team decades ago.
“Mama June’s cooking is the best,” said Sam Conerly as his teammates munched on their meal in the cafeteria. “It’s awesome. There’s no words to describe how good it is and how wonderful it tastes. It’s one of the best parts about a game day Friday, to come in here and get a piece of Mama June’s fried chicken. I love her fried chicken and my dad loved it when he was here too.”
Mama June shared portions of her recipe, emphasizing the importance of prepping it 24 hours before she fries it in vegetable oil. She also warned that you can’t just use flour or it won’t have that proper crunch when you bite into it.
One can’t help but wonder how fried chicken came to be the signature meal before Friday games.
“Well, I’ll tell you how that happened,” said Mama June. “We started in the 1960s and we always worked in the concession and then in the band and the banquet and other things and I just wanted to do a meal for the boys and the cheerleaders. The way it started with the fried chicken is because we won a game off the chicken. It was a regular little old home game, but before that I was giving them burgers, and then when we did the chicken they won so we stuck to the chicken ever since.”
For the people who have the honor of being in her presence, it’s much more than fried chicken that makes Mama June special.
Central High Principal Jared Griffis said she is a part of what makes the school feel like home for many and she’s in the hearts of many football players and cheerleaders who have graduated.
“Mama June is a Central family icon,” said Griffis. “She’s one of the most generous people I’ve ever met and she always puts others before herself. She’s a role model for how we should treat others and an example of how to help others. It would not be Central without Mama June. This is my third year as principal and the one thing I am always asked is if she’s still here, and then I’m asked how much longer is she going to be here. But that’s her decision. She’s going to be here doing this for as long as she wants to.”
Lynn Postelle grew up with the Maxwell children and has been helping Mama June in the kitchen for game day for the past 11 years.
“She’s been doing this from the time I was in school and it’s still just as good,” she said. “We will never know this side of heaven how many lives Mama June has touched. She’s just so giving and she keeps on giving.”
The Central Lions aren’t the only group who can claim Mama June as their own. She also helps out at the Carroll County Soup Kitchen and the homeless shelter. Mama June smiles as she talks about her “babies” at the Oak Grove Baptist Church, where she has taught the 3-year-old Sunday school class for approximately 30 years, and enjoys talking about the Lord with them and helping them learn to pray.
The city of Carrollton proclaimed Sept. 12, 2016, as June Maxwell Day, stating that she has been a powerful influence for good in the community. When she went up to receive the honor from the mayor and City Council, she playfully scolded her family and friends who showed up, saying that they tricked her into coming because they knew she would not have come if she knew she was going to be honored.
“We had to tell her to come out to City Hall because they were honoring my husband, Coach Ronnie Burchfield,” said Saralynn Burchfield, who also helps Mama June in the kitchen. “She said we all tricked her, but we know that she’s just too humble to go there on her own and receive recognition. She absolutely deserves it. She feeds so many people. She feeds the homeless, she feeds strangers, she feeds these kids. When she’s not feeding them, she’s making calls to make sure get people to sponsor all this food for them. She has done this for nothing and she is able to get everyday people and organizations and even banks and all that to sponsor and help out. We are so blessed to have her as a part of our extended family.”