• 50°

‘Mama Dip,’ fried chicken maven and Chapel Hill icon, dies at age 89

By Martha Waggoner and Allen G. Breed

Associated Press

CHAPEL HILL — A Chapel Hill restaurant owner known as much for generosity as her fried chicken has died at the age of 89, her family said Monday.

Mildred Council, nicknamed “Mama Dip” by basketball greats Michael Jordan and James Worthy, died Sunday at UNC Hospitals in Chapel Hill, two of her daughters said.

Council had not worked at the restaurant, Mama Dip’s Kitchen, for several years because of health problems, they said. Still, her death was a surprise.

“She’s been in good spirits,” daughter Annette Council said in an interview at the restaurant. “All day yesterday, she was just great, and all of the sudden, it just happened. We were all shocked.”

Council, the granddaughter of a slave, opened the restaurant in Chapel Hill in 1976 with $40 to purchase food and $24 for change. She moved to a larger space across the street in 1999.

“My mom started a business just to make a living for her family,” Annette Council said. “We had no idea, any of us, that it would turn out to be all this.

“My mom always taught us that if you love what you do, everything else will follow, including money,” she added. “So we always worked hard just because we love this place. We love the customers. We love what we do. So it was never about the money; it was about making people happy.”

Originally, the restaurant didn’t include “Mama” in its name, said another daughter, Spring Council. It did include “Dip,” a childhood nickname that the 6-foot-2 Mildred Council got when she was young because her arms were long enough to dip water from barrels.

One day, Jordan and Worthy, then college basketball players, were in the restaurant and heard the family in the kitchen calling her “Mama,” so they took to calling her “Mama Dip,” a name that stuck, Spring Council said.

Mildred Council had eight children and raised another relative who is considered her child, Spring Council said. She said her mother had more than a dozen grandchildren, more than 20 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.

Four of her children now manage the restaurant, and some grandchildren work there, the daughters said.

The restaurant was open Monday and likely will only close for the day before and day of her funeral, Spring Council said. Closing the restaurant only briefly is part of their legacy to their mother, they said.

“We do have staff, and they have to take care of their bills,” she said. “That’s what she’d want us to do.”

Knox Funeral Home in Chapel Hill is handling the arrangements.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations go to the Mama Dip Share the Love Fund of Triangle Community Foundation.

Mildred Council was a giving person who taught her children to help others, her daughters said. They plan to honor their mother, Annette Council said: “Just keeping that going and keeping her fried chicken good.”



10% of Rowan residents receive first dose; eight COVID-19 deaths reported this week


North Carolina State Highway Patrol commander to retire


UNC School of the Arts may go for online learning due to COVID-19 spread


Greensboro site to administer 3,000 daily vaccine doses starting March 10


Update: $1.9 trillion relief bill passes House, moves on to Senate


Lady Gaga’s dogs recovered safely


Advisers OK single-shot COVID-19 vaccine from J&J


Post wins 18 N.C. Press Association Awards


Cooper vetoes bill that would force K-12 schools to reopen


Lanning named Spencer’s fire chief


Blotter: Feb. 26


Salisbury, Kannapolis men charged with soliciting sexual acts


Racial bias ‘deeply entrenched’ in report critical of Apex Police Department


US bombs facilities in Syria used by Iran-backed militia


City council again dismisses idea of adding new member, focus now on recommendation to delay elections


‘Let’s make some money:’ Loosened restrictions praised by bar owners, baseball team

High School

Salisbury High bucks historical trend in dominant shutout of West Rowan


Garage declared total loss after Enochville fire


Cooper, N.C. prison officials agree to release 3,500 inmates


Two more COVID-19 deaths reported in Rowan, six for the week


Blotter: Man brandishes AR-15, runs over motorcycle at Rockwell-area gas station


Salisbury man charged with exploitation of minor


Road rage incident results in assault charges


Dukeville lead testing results trickle in, more participation needed