Hayward Spears Sr. was born on February 27, 1934, in Hope, Arkansas. He was the fifth child of eight children of Albert Spears Sr. and Tealie Spears. He graduated from Blevins Training School in 1954 in Blevins, Arkansas. Hayward grew up on a farm in Arkansas, watching his father barbecue in the family yard. Cooking barbecue for his family was not only an event; it grew into a cherished family tradition. Hayward took a loved family tradition with him to Kansas City, Kansas and ultimately to Overland Park, Kansas.
In 1972, Hayward Spears founded Hayward’s Pit Bar-B-Que, a reflection epitome of Aristotle’s proverb — “Pleasure in the Job Puts Perfection in the Work.” Hayward’s Pit Bar-B-Que was founded on a dream of turning a cherished family tradition into an iconic business in his namesake. Hayward has been the recipient of many awards. In 1985, he was voted by Walt Bodine as the best barbecue restaurant in Kansas City. In 1990, Ingram’s Magazine voted Hayward’s the best barbecue for the last 8 to 10 years. In 1985, Hayward was elected to the Mid-America Bank Board of Directors. In 1992, he was voted the Minority Entrepreneur of the Year by Ernst & Young and Merrill Lynch. That same year he was voted one of the 100 Most Influential African-Americans in Kansas City.
For the entirety of his career, he became an essential and reliable fixture in his community; he served as a Board Member of the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce, The Overland Park Convention and Visitors Bureau, and a member of the Foundation Board of the Johnson Country Community College.
Hayward's devotion to his community was influenced by his father, Albert Spears Sr., who was the first Black person to vote in Hempstead County, Arkansas. Albert Spears Sr. was a political trailblazer who believed in an individual's right to vote and a fundamental belief that community engagement gives us a sense of belonging, creating a bridge toward systemic change for racial equality. Hayward marched behind his father who escorted others under armed protection to help facilitate the voting rights of Black citizens. Hayward mirrored his father's values and principles to help create a community environment that enables personal relatedness to feel connected in a meaningful way and support the perpetual growth of each other and the community.
Hayward was an avid runner who felt such a sense of freedom and happiness while being at one with himself on the open road. Running to Hayward provided adventure, speed, and simplicity at its finest, leading him to complete multiple half and full marathons.
Hayward Spears took a hands-on approach and attention to detail in the restaurant's operation, which led to the creation of a remarkable barbecue brand through his love of work, customer service, and his family. Hayward was authentically, and wholeheartedly there for those in his life and his contribution will allow his legacy to continue for generations to come.
Hayward is survived by his loving wife of 65 years, Hattie Spears; his daughter Greta Warren, his sons, Christopher Spears and Hayward Spears Jr.; and his grandchildren, Kyle Spears, Keesha Spears, Trenton Spears, Jeremey Spears, Hayward Spears III, Peri Warren, Powers Warren, seven great-grandchildren and many nieces, nephews, extended family, and friends. He was preceded in death by his mother and father, Albert and Tealie Spears, and his siblings, Howard Spears, Gloria Cade, Monroe Spears, Faith Redden, Odessa Pace, Albert Spears Jr., and Bobbie-Jean Williams.
Hayward peacefully passed away in Leawood, Kansas, on October 2, 2022 at his home.
Hayward’s work ethic, love, grace for all, giving spirit, intelligence, wisdom, and laughter will be missed by all who knew him. Hayward deeply loved God and accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.
In lieu of flowers and in alignment with Hayward Spears Sr.’s entrepreneurial spirit and legacy, our family requests donations be made to support the nonprofit organization, Generating Income For Tomorrow (G.I.F.T.) More information can be found on G.I.F.T.’s website, https://www.kansascitygift.org. (Donation page in memory of Hayward Spears Sr. https://secure.givelively.org/donate/generating-income-for-tomorrow/remembering-hayward-spears ). We trust that contributions will leave an indelible impact on the next generation of Black and Brown thinkers, dreamers and entrepreneurs.
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Hayward Spears Sr., please visit our floral store.