Baker’s Pharmacy in Tallahassee's south side has been a landmark since 1958. Two years ago its doors closed for the last time, thus ending a chapter of Tallahassee's history.
When Wilmoth and Kathleen Baker opened their pharmacy 44 years ago they joined only a half dozen other blacks in the pharmacy business statewide.
Wilmoth says, "There was no pharmacy on this side of town, so we thought we'd bring business over here."
Mrs. Baker says Florida was very prejudiced in the '50s, which lead to the main reason for the pharmacy's existence.
Kathleen says, "To work, I had to have my own business, and this is what we did. There was no place for me as a black female pharmacist unless you had your own business."
They were repeatedly turned down by Tallahassee banks for a loan and had to turn to the New York Life insurance company. For years, they ran the pharmacy on a shoestring budget, but former intern Henry Lewis says that didn't stop them from helping others.
Henry Lewis, a FAMU pharmacy professor, says, "Regardless of the ability to pay, he always made sure that they had their medication because that was what was important. The money always came back."
And like Martin Luther King, Jr., who inspired change in a nation, the Baker’s inspired change in their community.
"We were proud of his determination to lead the black nation into integration with the white nation, and he did it peacefully."
Ronald Williams, a delivery boy and stock clerk for the pharmacy in the early 1960s, explains how the Baker’s got everyone involved in striving for equality.
Ronald says, "When we first got the right to vote here, they asked me to go by the crate factory and pick up some workers and take to the polls, so I did that quite a bit."
All employees had to be registered voters.
“You had to be registered to vote and you had to vote and we provided the transportation to make sure all our employees voted."
In the '50s, '60s and even through the '70s, Tallahassee and the south was still coming out of segregation, and pharmacy students did not have the internship opportunities they have today, but the Baker’s helped more than 160 students fulfill their requirements.
"At some point, we had at least five people in the back to help us. We didn't need five; we hardly needed one, but this was an opportunity for them to work and get their internship hours."
"I remember both Mr. and Mrs. Baker being the most compliant and caring pharmacists that I'd ever come in contact with," it’s recalled.
If you would like to make a donation, they can be sent to:
6033 Button Willow Lane
Tallahassee, FL 32305