Talk about ham-handed: Iconic Texas cafeteria apologizes for promo’s Amber Alert theme

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Houston-based Luby’s Cafeterias has apologized for an Easter ham promotion joke about the Amber Alert, a national child-abduction message system that originated after the 1996 death of 9-year-old Amber Hagerman of Arlington.

Luby’s marketing emails and texts included a cartoon of a flying pig smiling and lifting a ham platter with the message: “Hamber-Alert! Ham Dinners Spotted at Luby’s!”

“We believe in owning our mistakes,” Luby’s wrote in a followup marketing message: “We really apologize for the insensitive language in the recent promotion you received. We will do better.”

The Amber Alert system was created by Dallas-Fort Worth radio broadcasters after a Fort Worth listener’s call and letter during the search for Hagerman, abducted in east Arlington Jan. 13, 1996.

She was found dead four days later. The killing remains unsolved.

Luby’s operates more than 40 cafeterias across Texas, including a location at 3312 SE Loop 820, Forest Hill. It’s under a new ownership group led by Calvin Gin of Chicago.

The Amber Alert idea originated with massage therapist Diana R. Simone, now of DeCordova, Texas. She phoned a host at KDMX/102.9 FM and followed with a letter shared among radio managers.

Her letter suggested that when a child is abducted, “all the radio stations in the area would be notified immediately and they would interrupt programming to broadcast an emergency alert. ... My one request is that it be known as Amber’s Plan.”