Sanders Alexander Marshall Jr., a pharmacist for Ward’s Cut-Rate Drugs in the early 1960s, broke the color barrier in Fort Worth as one of the first African-American pharmacists to work alongside white pharmacists and dispense prescriptions to white customers.
As a kid growing up on the Northside of Fort Worth, Texas, Sanders Marshall envisioned himself working for the railroad as a porter. Those were “big time” positions for Blacks in the ’50s. He would later graduate from I. M. Terrell High School and go on to serve in the United States Airforce during the Korean War. After serving his country, young Sanders did not go to work for the railroad. Seeing education as the key to a better future, he instead enrolled at Texas Southern University. With no college graduates in his family to guide him, he recalled that at about age 10, he watched his father struggle to breathe. He had just returned from the drugstore, where a pharmacist said his prescription would have his father breathing better soon. The medicine worked and his father was breathing better.
Helping people through medicine stuck with him, so he pursued a degree in pharmacy. Upon graduation, Sanders returned to Fort Worth at the height of Jim Crow. He took a job at a local black pharmacy called Flint Drugs. After a couple of months, Marshall asked for a job at Wards Cut-Rate Drugs, which became Eckerd’s, and is now CVS. The white store manager remembered him as a teenage stocker, and she took a chance and hired him.
The community was not ready to see a Black man dispensing their medications. He had to work from an enclosed workspace and hand the prescriptions toward the front. It took some time for white citizens to accept him, but many patrons and colleagues became some of his life-long friends. Marshall credits his temperament and presence to go into and adverse situation and overcome it.
Submitted by Karen D. Marshall
Director, Client Services
Metropolitan Transit Authority, Harris Count