Activist company

The newly restored Smith Drug Company reopens

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WHLT) – On Thursday, the Smith Drug Co. in Hattiesburg reopened after a restoration process, which began in January 2020.

The Mobile Street building joins other renovated structures, including the historic Eureka School and the Museum of African American Military History.

“In addition to being one of the first (and oldest) companies on Mobile Street, Smith Drug Co. was a center of life in Hattiesburg’s African-American community,” said Rick Taylor, executive director of the Hattiesburg Convention Commission. “Not only did the pharmacy provide medicine and sundries to the community while providing milkshakes to students at Eureka School, but it served as a focal point for broad-based community leadership by its founder, E. Hammond Smith. “

Commenting on the building’s restoration, Latoya Norman, Director of Museums for the Hattiesburg Convention Commission, said, “This historic restoration promises to preserve the history of Smith Drug Company as well as the legacy of two beloved pharmacists who served as beacons in their community. During special events, members of the community will be able to gather and socialize in this unique space.

Smith Drug Company was established in 1925 by E. Hammond Smith at 606 Mobile Street in Hattiesburg Mississippi, which was the heart of the Mobile Street business district.

The building that originally housed Smith Drug Company belonged to Smith’s father. Smith carried out renovations to the building during its first year of operation, but delayed any major renovations until the early 1950s. However, the original building served the business and community well in the years that preceded World War II.

“The store became a community focal point during the civil rights turmoil of the 1960s,” said Louise Revere, who was an employee of Smith Drug Company. “It served as a meeting place for local leaders and was visited by many national civil rights activists, including Dick Gregory.”

In 1980, James A. Cohen purchased Smith Drug Company from his mentor, Dr. Smith, after working side by side for over 27 years. Cohen renamed the business, Cohen Drug Company, which operated until 1996 when Cohen retired, and the business was closed.

When it closed on December 31, 1996, Cohen Drug Company (formerly Smith Drug Co.) was one of the oldest black-owned businesses in Hattiesburg, having served its community for more than 71 years.