Pharmily Photos: The Whaley Family

A look back at Milton Whaley’s life of opportunity, service, and philanthropy

Story by Ryan McDaniel | Photos courtesy of Gary Whaley | Published June 20, 2023

Our Pharmily Photos series shares the stories of our people. Some are Tar Heels born and bred while others are adopted. All are connected by our love of UNC and our passion for helping patients. This photo journey spotlights Milton Whaley, BSPhar ’51, and his continuing family legacy.

Meet Milton Whaley

Milton Whaley grew up on a tobacco farm in rural North Carolina from the 1920s through the 1940s. He worked the farm with his two brothers and his father, who often picked up odd jobs to keep food on the table, especially during the Depression. When World War Two erupted, Milton was drafted into the US Army and deployed to France. There, he drove trucks all over France, transporting German prisoners.

Left: Milton holds up a stick laden with tobacco leaves, c. 1940. Right: Milton's Army photo, c. 1945

An Opportunity Arises

When Milton returned from the war, he had to consider his future. He admired a pharmacist from his home town and thought that pharmacy could make a good career. Unfortunately, Milton's grades in high school were not likely good enough to get him into pharmacy school. But while Milton was away in France, the school burned down, destroying his academic records. Milton went to the school principal hoping for a recommendation. The principal responded, "I can get you into Pharmacy School, but it is up to you to stay there."

Milton attended the UNC School of Pharmacy and lived up to his high school principal's words, graduating in 1951. Photo from his class' trip to Eli Lilly Laboratories in March of 1951.

Wallace Drug Company

After graduating, Milton acquired the Wallace Drug Company in 1953, located at the corners of Main and Railroad Streets in Wallace, North Carolina. Photos of the exterior of the store from 1961 on left and 1990s on right.

Wallace Drug Pre-Renovation

Wallace Drug Company as it was in 1953, taken from the front door looking toward the rear of the store. In the very back, you can see Milton upstairs in his office over the prescription room.

Wallace Drug Post-Renovation

In 1961, Milton expanded the store to take over the old theater building on Railroad Street. During the renovation, he moved the soda fountain to the back of the store, where it became a hub of activity in downtown Wallace. Businessmen of the town would come in and flip coins to see who would pay for coffee. They would all get a kick out of when Milton lost and coffee was on the house.

A Husband & Wife Team

Milton's wife, Neta, was an integral part of operations at Wallace Drug Company. While Milton worked behind the counter counseling patients and dispensing medication, Neta worked behind the scenes in the back office, assisting with finances, inventory, and other day-to-day necessities of the business.

Women's Auxiliary

Neta was also an active member in the Women's Auxiliary North Carolina Pharmaceutical Association. The Women's Auxiliary was an organization of wives of NC Pharmaceutical Association (NCPA) members and often did philanthropic work in support of the NCPA and the UNC School of Pharmacy.

Here, Neta and other members of the Women's Auxiliary hold up a handmade quilt sold during a fundraiser.

A Commitment to Service

Throughout his lifetime, Milton dedicated himself to serving his fellow human beings. He would deliver medicine to home-bound people who couldn't get to his store. He gave his time, efforts, and expertise to his church, his Rotary Club, his local library board, and any other community project that needed help. In 1972, he was recognized with the AH Robbins Award for Community Service.

A special one-issue cover for TIME was made in each state to honor the pharmacist from that state awarded the AH Robbins Award for Community Service.

NCPA President

Continuing his devotion to service, Milton served as NC Pharmaceutical Association President in 1975-76. As such, he was the speaker at the UNC School of Pharmacy's graduation in 1975 - the class in which his daughter-in-law, Fran Whaley, graduated.

Pharmacist of the Year

In 1989, Milton was named the Pharmacist of the Year by the NC Pharmaceutical Association. He and Neta were featured on the cover of the October 1989 edition of the Carolina Journal of Pharmacy, announcing the honor.

The Whaley Family Scholarship

In 2007, Milton endowed the Whaley Family Scholarship. To date, 21 students have benefited from the endowed fund and the family is dedicated to its furtherance and perpetual endurance. Milton passed in 2017, but his legacy lives on through his philanthropy. As Milton's son, Gary, notes, "Not only did [Milton] endow the scholarship, he also taught his family the importance of not pulling the ladder up, but reaching out to those in need of assistance . . . it takes all of us to live in this world together."

Photo from Milton's 90th birthday celebration, surrounded by family.

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