MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Monday afternoon, family and friends said their goodbyes to Memphis trailblazer Dr. Charles A. Champion, who passed away Saturday, Jan. 21.
Dr. Champion spent his life providing remedies, combining natural herbs and medicines to treat many common illnesses for people here in the city.
“Dr. Champion was a trail blazer. He’s one of a kind. He was a good man, good family man. He loved his church and community, and he will be sorely missed,” said Former Memphis Mayor Dr. W.W. Herenton.
Dr. Champion built his career in the 1950s, not only during a time where some of the same disparities in healthcare for Black people that we see today were raging, but also during a time when African Americans where not widely acknowledged for their work in the medical field, lacking opportunities.
Dr. Champion was the first Black pharmacist to work in a hospital in Memphis, as well as the first Black pharmacist to work in a chain drug store in the city.
“Dr. Champion was the first Black professional that I saw with a white, medical jacket on,” said Herenton. “I walked from South Memphis from Barton and Crump to Southgate, and I saw Dr. Champion and I remember I was so full of pride to see a Black man as a pharmacist.”
He opened Champion Pharmacy and Drug Store in 1981. His daughters followed in his footsteps, taking up careers in pharmacy and medicine. His daughters now manage the family store.
“To excel and even pursue being a pharmacist in the segregated south, that in and of itself, makes you a winner. It makes you a champion,” said Dr. Shawn Pruitt, Pharmacist.
In 2019, Mayor Jim Strickland presented Dr. Champion with a key to the city. He was also awarded the Authur S. Holman Lifetime Achievement Award in 2022, the same year he celebrated his 92nd birthday.
“Sometimes words just can’t explain what one man can really do for a community. But when you think of Dr. Champion, you think of that legacy, of someone who wanted to educate and keep us all healthy,” said Janeen Gordon, Juvenile Court Clerk.
Dr. Champion's family said he was a wonderful husband, father, grandfather, and friend.
“I’ve known him all my life. You know, just a good example of a man of greatness who lived in a village that all of us looked up to. He was just a great man, an icon here in the city,” said Melvin Burgess, Shelby County Assessor of Property.
His funeral services were held Monday afternoon at Mt. Olive Cathedral C.M.E Church.
After the service, a processional took Dr. Champion's body to the grounds of Champion's Pharmacy and Herb Store one last time. Flowers for the family can be sent to:
- Champion Family Foundation
- P.O. Box 16136
- Memphis, TN 38186