By Karen Stokes
Dr. Lester Carter, founder of one of Milwaukee’s first Black-owned pharmacies died at the age of 90 on Monday, Jan. 31.
For the last five decades, Carter passionately cared for the health of the people in the African American community.
Community members and friends responded to the news of Carter’s passing with messages of support and thanks.
“I remember my mom going there a lot when we were sick,” Koffee Bell said. “Mr. Carter always treated us like family and took time out of his busy schedule to help my mom. She always referred to him as the ‘great scientist.’”
“I was always proud of Dr. Carter since I was a child and would go there with my mother,” said musician Jeff Phillips. “My grandfather lived on the next block on 24th Place and Burleigh St.
Dr Carter took time to listen to all his patrons. I’m glad he and his wife stayed in the hood, he was truly a pillar of medical advice and great service.”
The Carter Drug Store Pharmacy located at 24th and Burleigh in the Amani neighborhood, opened in 1968, when Carter showed unflinching determination to open his own store in a predominantly German neighborhood in Milwaukee. It’s been reported that Carter said the deal was closed with a handshake. No lawyers or banks, just a handshake.
Many in the African American community changed their approach to medicine because of Carter’s concept of educating customers on all-natural solutions to health issues.
Carter sold the drugstore to Hayat Pharmacy a few years ago but remained on site to consult the new owners on natural remedies.
Born in Nebraska, Carter enlisted in the U.S. Navy. After four years serving his country, he attended Creighton University School of Pharmacy and graduated in 1958 as the first African American graduate of the program.
“To call Dr. Carter extraordinary is an understatement!” Andrea Williams, TV and radio personality, said. “He was such a warm person with so much knowledge and a special love for people. The first time I interviewed him, I felt like I had known him for years! I love his determination to go into business for himself despite being a Black man in a then all German neighborhood. He told me once they realized he could perform, it was all love and he even learned a little German to greet his customers. As we all know, the rest is history. He helped pave the way and will be sorely missed.”
In 2018, the Milwaukee Common Council named the street where the drugstore stands in Carter’s honor.
After his passing, a joint statement was released by the Common Council:
“Sadly, we have learned of the passing of Dr. Lester Carter, a longtime community anchor and business trailblazer, and we want to share our sincere condolences with his loved ones and friends. He touched thousands of lives in positive ways during his time in business and beyond.
He helped improve the overall quality of life for community members, and as we remember his service, we think of his special touch. Not only did you come to Dr. Carter’s store to get a prescription for whatever your ailment was, but he was also a source of inspiration. When you left his store, you were going to feel better before you even took that first pill or applied that ointment. Dr. Carter was a true community treasure (and legend) and will be sorely missed but not forgotten.”
Well done Dr. Carter!