Richard William Warriner, Sr., the founder of Rich’s Hamburgers in Pine Bluff, died recently at the age of 97.

A native of Pine Bluff, he moved to St. Louis in the early 1940s, 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.

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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.

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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.

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“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,” Robinson said.

“Richard Warriner’s stand isn’t elaborate, but the food is good, and his simple but delicious fare earned him recognition with the Arkansas Hospitality Association and the National Restaurant Association. Today, the restaurant sports the cheapest hamburger in the state at just .75 cents, which locals come to order and wait for, handed out in brown paper sacks with a wad of napkins, often consumed while seated in cars or taken home to share. There’s nothing on the menu over $4 (for an oversized shake), a remarkable feat today,” Robinson said.

The funeral service will be held on today at 2:00pm 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.

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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 Drive, Pine Bluff, AR 71603; or Trinity Episcopal Church, 703 West Third Avenue, Pine Bluff, AR 71601. Online condolences may be made at RalphRobinsonandSon.com