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Dr. Lester Carter: A Milwaukee treasure, has passed away

Lester Carter
Barbara J. Miner
Lester Carter

One of Milwaukee’s longest-serving Black pharmacists, affectionately known as Dr. Lester Carter has passed away. Carter reportedly died from complications related to COVID-19.

He served the community for more than 50 years, since taking over Carter Drugs at 24th and Burleigh in 1968. Back then, the neighborhood was largely German and white, but that changed as years went on and Dr. Carter is remembered for serving the African American community.

Mitch Teich sat down with Dr. Carter and Barbara Miner, who wrote an article about him, back in February 2015. He recalls his early days operating the store as well as the impact he had on the people who visited it.

Our previous story that aired on Jan. 4, 2016 at 2:29 PM CDT follows below.

We hear a lot about how divided the Milwaukee area is – divided by politics, divided by income level, divided by race. In many ways, it’s a city of haves and have-nots.

And one area that is nearly always included in the list of have-nots is the zip code 53206.

Writer Barbara Miner wanted to look beyond the statistics and stereotypes for her Milwaukee Magazine feature, A Dream Deferred.

"In general, you fear what you don't know. There is too much fear in this city - fear of other neighborhoods, fear of other people," Miner says in an interview with Lake Effect. "What I tried to do with the article is show the people of 53206 as people. And that we need, as a city, to break down these barriers of fear, we need to break down policies that are based on fear and we need to deal with the very destructive racial dynamics that separate neighborhoods and people."

While covering "everyday people doing their best," Miner was introduced to 83-year-old pharmacist Lester Carter, Jr., better known as "Dr." Carter. "Of all of the people I interviewed, [he's] probably the most iconic figure. I soon learned that he's this neighborhood treasure," she says.

Carter Drug Store has served the community for nearly 50 years, since Carter bought the shop from a German pharmacist. He visited Lake Effect to reflect on his career and to share stories and wisdom.

"The one thing that I attribute to...longevity without major problems [at the store] is that I made it mandatory that everybody, whether they are one-year-old or 101, would be treated with respect and courtesy," Carter says.

Even though Carter's store was recently sold to Hayat Pharmacy, Dr. Carter continues to work there three days a week, impacting everyone who enters the door.

When it comes to breaking down barriers in Milwaukee, Miner reminds us that we can all follow Carter's lead - treat everyone with dignity and respect.

Dr. Carter will receive an honorary doctorate from the Medical College of Wisconsin on May 15th, 2015.

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