Cafe owner, 65, remembered for food, warmth he provided on AUC campus, dies from coronavirus

ATLANTA — Michael Murrell believed no one should leave his restaurant without a full stomach.

Now the popular restaurant owner, who long made his mark in the Atlanta University Center, has died -- yet another victim of COVID-19.

Murrell, 65, died Tuesday at Emory University Hospital.

He owned Murrell’s Cafe on the campus of the Interdenominational Theological Center in the AU Center, but he gained a following as the chef at a restaurant at Morris Brown College.

People who knew Murrell said he was known for giving, and he loved preparing food.

"He would feed everybody," Reginald Harris told Channel 2’s Tom Jones. “And he didn't want anyone to leave his restaurant and say they were still hungry. "


"Mike would bring the fish hot out of the grease. The chicken fresh. He would keep putting it on your plate," said community activist Derrick Boazman.

Murrell’s cafe in the AU Center was a special meeting place for students, politicians and civil rights leaders. The soul food drew visitors from across the country during events like the Celebration Bowl. It was also the go-to spot once church let out.

“You got to see the Pentecostals, the AME’s, the Baptists. And all of us would compare how church was,” pastor William B. Flippen Sr., of Greater Piney Baptist Church, said.

Murrell fell ill to the coronavirus and fought hard, not ready to give up on preparing one last meal, friends said.

"He was in the hospital for 34 days. And 32 days he was on a ventilator,” said his brother Robert Murrell said.

[RELATED: Georgia Department of Public Health Daily Status Report]

Robert Murrell said it pained him to see how the virus destroyed his brother’s body. He doesn’t want anyone else to go through that.

“Stay home. Stay home,” he said, surrounded by mask wearing friends and family. “This stuff is real.”

People recalled Murrell as a man who always wore a smile, someone extremely positive and someone who believed in giving back.

"He would give the food away," fraternity brother Reginald Harris explained.

“We’re going to miss him,” Boazman said.

Murrell shut down his restaurant last summer to focus on his restaurants in his home state of North Carolina.

He leaves behind two daughters and three granddaughters. He was very active in his Omega Psi Phi fraternity.

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