'Doc' Young's Pharmacy Honored For Neighborhood Role
By EMILY GUEVARA
For about an hour, the business district once known as "The Cut" came alive. Cars filled small parking lots. People gathered outside store fronts. And the sound of conversation filled the air as old friends reminisced.
"Do you believe it wasn't (any) bigger than this, and we had to go inside when we passed it?" one woman said as she sat outside what used to be Young's drugstore.
Noble Earnest "Doc" Young opened the drugstore, the first for African-Americans in Tyler, in 1946. For almost 40 years, until 1984, he operated it influencing many lives with his kindness and generosity.
On Friday, current and former members of this community along with city and county leaders gathered to dedicate a historical subject marker in remembrance of Young.
The marker, which features of picture of Young dressed in suit and tie, tells about his work and what he meant to the community.
A man who had no children of his own, he invested in the people young and old who came to him, giving them jobs, showing them opportunity and teaching them through example about the value of hard work.
"He was so influential in the black community during the segregation that he was more like a second father to the community," Young's godson Judge Quincy Beavers Jr. said.
A generous man, "Doc" Young did much more than run a drugstore. He provided class rings, caps and gowns, and senior memorabilia to Emmett J. Scott High School students whose families could not afford them, according to information on the historical marker.
Young also provided free medicine to families who could not pay, as well as interest-free loans to families in need.
"He did his best to give back to his community, help others in need, and see that African-Americans in his community were given a fair and equal opportunity academically, socially and spiritually," the historical marker reads.
Born in 1902, Young was raised in Smith County's St. Louis community where he attended public school and the East Texas Academy, according to a history provided by Beavers.
Upon graduating from high school at 15, he attended Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tenn., where he earned a pharmacy degree.
He later attended Bishop College in Marshall where he earned a bachelor's degree in chemistry and biology and supervisory certification of education.
Although he worked as a teacher, principal and chemist for some time, most of his life was spent as a pharmacist. Once he opened the drugstore in Tyler in 1946, he stayed there until 1984 when he retired.
In a practical sense, the store met a very clear need. In the days of segregation, it provided to African-Americans a place to go for medication, food, treats in the form of ice cream, malts, sodas and news.
But it was much more than just a store. It was at the heart of the community. It was a place where children and adults alike went to hang out, chat and read the latest news. It was a place Doc Young built relationships with the community.
Beavers still can picture Young sitting in the back of the store working.
"He always had a smile," Beavers said. "He'd always greet you. Nobody was a stranger."
Although the building is mostly empty inside today, then it was bustling. Along one wall was the long countertop with stools on one side. Girls worked on the other side serving ice creams, malts, banana splits and more.
"I used to walk over here daily and get ice cream," said Beverly Beavers Brooks, 68, whose mother had a beauty shop down the street. "My favorite was banana nut ice cream."
Once people had ice cream or other food in hand, they often sat down on a stool or in one of the booths and perused a magazine or newspaper.
In addition to white publications, the store had the latest in African-American publications such as Ebony and Jet or the
"It was just a wonderful experience," Ms. Brooks said.
Lessie Mae Thompson, 99, volunteered for Young helping him to take inventory. She said Doc was skilled at his craft making medications that "would do some good."
Bishop David R. Houston recalled how some of the kids would cut out of church during the offering on Sundays to go get ice cream at Young's drugstore.
It was open from noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays. However, their plan didn't work out quite as they had hoped because when they got back to church the offering still was going.
"It was always a great life here in north Tyler," Houston said. "The only thing I regret is Doc did a great job, but there was no one here to take (his) place."
Mayor Barbara Bass said the city, in accordance with its Tyler 21 plan, launched a three-year program to promote Tyler Historic Landmarks such as this one.
The Reflections Program encourages residents or interested organizations to submit nominations for the designations in the north end such as Tyler Historic Landmarks, Tyler Historic Subject Markers or Half Mile of History markers. Young is the seventh Reflections recipient.
"The stories make the person," Mayor Bass said. "You can see that Doc Young was an integral part of this community. Lives were changed and touched through him."
In addition to Mayor Bass, Smith County Commissioner JoAnn Hamp-ton read a resolution honoring Young's legacy.
Tyler City Councilman Ralph Caraway provided opening remarks and a prayer.
Tyler Historical Preservation Board member Jason Jennings read a history about Young.