Remembering Dr. Champion: Community reflects on passing of legendary herbalist

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Bluff City says goodbye to legendary, longtime pharmacist and herbalist Dr. Charles Champion.

Dr. Charles Champion, for Champion’s Pharmacy and Herb Store, died at the age of 92.

“The family got my deepest condolences. I hate it,” said Champion’s God son Joseph Gandy. “I still don’t want to believe it. We lost another king, another champ,” said Gandy.

Champion was born in Memphis in 1930, and became a licensed pharmacist with over 60 years of experience.

“Live like a champion” was the motto of the renowned, well-loved herbalist.

The pharmacy has been in Memphis since 1981.

Heartbroken clients reacted to the realization of knowing they won’t come face-to-face again with the man they trusted wholeheartedly with caring for their health.

“I’m shocked. I’m numb,” said one Champion Pharmacy client who’s been going to the herbalist for more than 20 years.

Another longtime client, Linda Miller, also expressed her condolences. “We’ve been losing so many people, so many famous people here in Memphis, so it’s been a really sad year here.”

The sign on the family storefront reads, “pill-er of the community” and residents have come to use that term in its literal sense to refer to Champion. “He is a pillar of the community. Everybody is going to take a loss. This is the herb man. He did things doctors couldn’t do,” said Gandy.

“When my daddy died, Dr. Champion accepted me as his God son and took care of me and made sure I did the right thing from that point forward,” said Gandy.

Other clients also weighed in on the sad news. “He was a good guy. The community is going to miss him,” said Willie Williams, who told FOX13′s reporter Lakiya Scott, he used several remedies from the pharmacy to help with arthritis.

In an August 2020 interview with FOX13, Champion reflected on his dedication and passion for sharing his gift to aid those in need. “I always felt good about my giving back to the community.”

The National Civil Rights Museum also issued a statement on Dr. Champion’s death, saying how grateful they are for the legacy of the first Black pharmacist in a Memphis hospital.

We are deeply saddened by the passing of Dr. Charles A. Champion, a community pillar, pharmacist, and master compounder of Champion’s Pharmacy and Herb Store since 1981. Our deepest condolences to the Champion Family.

The Champion Family’s ties are intertwined with the Museum through the Lorraine Motel’s history. In 1958, Dr. Champion married Carolyn Bailey, the daughter of the Lorraine’s owners, Walter and Loree Bailey, at the motel. From 2016-2020, the Champions were honored guests at the Museum’s Night at the Lorraine celebrations which highlighted the Lorraine Motel as a Green Book refuge in the Jim Crow era and cultural center in the Black community.

Dr. Champion and his family were beloved by the museum. Over the years, he recalled stories of the Lorraine in its heyday, and working with his in-laws. We are indebted to his generosity in sharing his story with us and his long standing work with the community.

As the first Black pharmacist in a Memphis hospital, Dr. Champion had a long tradition of serving and providing a holistic approach to healing to help bridge gaps in healthcare access. He was a trusted advisor for common ailments and was honored among his peers with several awards.

Dr. Champion’s caring tradition continues with his family and the many people he served. Both daughters, Dr. Carol “Cookie” Champion and Dr. Charita Champion Brookins, are pharmacists.

We are grateful for Dr. Champion’s love for his community and the many people he served. His legacy is forever etched into the soul of this city and the history of the Lorraine Motel at the National Civil Rights Museum.

Rest well, Dr. Champion. You will truly be missed, but your legacy lives on.

It is unknown at this time how he died.