On Tuesday, April 10, 2018, on her 78th birthday, our beloved Peggy Tapp was called home to be with our Heavenly Father. Peggy was born in 1940, in Durham, NC to the late Albert and Mamie Elizabeth Hayes Johnson. Peggy received her education in the Durham City Public Schools at Lyon Park Elementary, Whitted School, and Hillside High School. She was a Hillside High School Graduate of the class of 1958. Two of her most memorable high school experiences were election as Parliamentarian for the Senior Class and being crowned “Miss Hillside” during her senior year.
Peggy Johnson (later to wed Claiborne Tapp, Jr.) began her strong work ethic early in life as a high school teenager. In 1957 she had her first job as a “car hop” at The Chicken Box concession stand at the Michaux Drive Inn Theater on Highway 55. After graduating she completed one year at North Carolina College before leaving to work full-time for The Chicken Box. The most compelling life story of Peggy Johnson Tapp is that from her early years of work at a small business in an underserved low income black community (where The Chicken Box was located), she gave “world class” attention and service to every task the work required. No matter what management needed, even without a well-defined job description and with only meager pay, Peggy labored with energy, passion, diligence, and determination to a phenomenal commitment to excellence. She always wanted to ensure that her responsibilities were performed in a manner that would make a positive difference.
The Chicken Box opened its doors on Pine Street (now Roxboro) in 1956 under proprietorship of Claiborne Tapp, Jr and his sister, Julia L. Tapp. For ten years at this location Peggy Johnson was one of the most dependable, hardworking, service oriented members of the leadership team. The business during its Pine Street location was challenged with what many other small black owned businesses faced - the need to relocate, inadequate funds, reestablishment in unfamiliar territories, and the need to shut down while rebuilding. Urban Renewal (“black removal”) wiped out many black businesses along Pine Street, Fayetteville, and Pettigrew along with surrounding, supporting residential neighborhoods. Regrettably the perceived goal of Urban Renewal failed many small black enterprises leaving them in a devastating plight. One of the few Pine Street enterprises to survive was The Chicken Box.
In 1976, the Tapp family business relocated to its present location, 3019 Fayetteville Street, with the name being changed to The Chicken Hut. Through the years Peggy Johnson became the most indispensable, the most irreplaceable, and the most productive worker for the continuation of the business. The new location provided a new thrust, becoming the cafeteria for college students enrolled at Durham College. Expanded services were implemented, along with the traditional breakfast and lunch to include catering services that were provided at considerably below market prices. Peggy Johnson later became the wife of the owner; Claiborne Tapp, Jr., as well as his “caregiver” when serious illness propelled her into extensive business management responsibilities.
Peggy Tapp is honored for her life’s work of more than sixty years with one small African American food service business, serving without the traditional financial rewards that proved not to be forth coming. The struggles were many but through her strong faith in the LORD, fortitude, “stick-to-it-tive-ness”, courage, and her perseverance, the business continued. Her life has been a shining example of the goals envisioned by the founders of the Durham Committee on the Affairs of Black People. Paramount was the desire that sound business venture with high standards and meaningful community services would permeate throughout the black community. The desired goal was service with economic enhancement rather than achievement of personal financial gain. The Tapp family (Claiborne Tapp, Jr., Tre, and Julia Tapp) with Peggy in an impressive pivotal leadership role, made possible the realization of important goals. In the face of many peaks and valleys, The Chicken Hut persevered as a beacon of light through determination and endless hours of work by Peggy and other family members.
Peggy was preceded in death by her husband, Claiborne Tapp, Jr., her parents; brothers, Albert Marcus Johnson, William MacArthur “Red” Johnson, and Ronald Lee Johnson; brother’s in-law, Levi Johnson, Jacob Abraham Dash, and nephew, Jonathan Johnson. She leaves to cherish her memories, one son, Tre Tapp (‘’K.D.’’), two grand-daughters, Jade and Leah Tapp, two sisters; Betsy “JoAnn” Johnson and Mary Ruth Dash; one uncle, Rev. Everett Johnson, Sr. (Yvonne); one aunt, Lethia Peace Johnson; nephews, Jacob Albert Dash of Durham, NC, Jerrold Anthony Dash (Rhonda) of Dallas-Fort Worth, TX, Jeffery Lamont Johnson (Christine) of Durham, NC, Justin Alvis Dash (Stephanie) of Durham, NC, Jason Johnson (Heather) of Mebane, NC, Anthony Messiah(Joann) of San Antonio, TX; Great Nieces, Te’Azsa Janie Dash of Durham, NC, Raegan Dash, and Ravyn Dash, both of Dallas-Fort Worth, TX, Sidney Dash and Spencer Dash, both of Durham, NC, Ava, Addison, Aidan of Mebane, NC; Great-Nephews, Jordan Dash of Durham, NC and Jason Johnson of Mebane NC; a host of special cousins and other dear relatives and friends.