Edward Michael O'Herron Jr. (Nov. 6, 1915 - July 26, 2006)
As chairman, CEO and former president of Eckerd's Drugs Inc., Ed O'Herron Jr. built the Carolinas drug stores into one of the nation's leading pharmacy chains.
Born on Nov. 6, 1915, in Baltimore, Ed moved with his family to Charlotte
where his father, Ed O'Herron Sr. opened Eckerd's Cut Rate Medical Store
on Trade Street in 1921. O'Herron Sr. was the son-in-law of J. Milton
Eckerd, who opened the first Eckerd drugstore in 1898 in Erie,
The North Carolina store was set up as a separate company from the original Pennsylvania firm. Ed's father opened a second store, located in Asheville in 1924. By 1928, Ed was working part-time in the original Charlotte store while attending public school.
In 1930, Ed enrolled in Culver Military Academy. By 1934, he had displayed his leadership, serving as Regimental Commander -- the highest ranking officer in the cadet corps. He won appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy, but transferred in his sophomore year to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, graduating in 1938. That year, he married Margaret Blackman.
Ed ran the Eckerd Drug warehouse operation out of the Asheville store for the half dozen Eckerd stores around North Carolina. During this time, he earned a pilot's license.
When World War II broke out, he enlisted in the Navy to be an aviator, but he was over the age limit. He joined the infantry with the Marines, went to officer training school and was an ordinance instructor. He applied for combat duty, and joined the Fifth Marine Division.
In the battle for Iwo Jima, Ed took over his unit's command after the senior officer was killed and led the troops which was engaged with the entire division in one of the fiercest fights in the Marine's history.
His unit won a Presidential citation and O'Herron received the Silver Star.
Following the war, he rejoined Eckerd Drugs of North Carolina as treasurer in 1946, and then vice president and a director in 1950.
While on a trip to California in 1952 with Jack Eckerd, who would open an Eckerd of Florida company, Ed looked over the operation of a self-service drug store. Ed opened Eckerd's first self-service drug store in Charlotte.
By 1954, Eckerd Drugs of North Carolina had 13 stores with annual sales of $6.3 million. Ed assumed more control at the company, becoming president in 1962 and chairman in 1965 when his father retired. At that time, Ed had led the company to open 39 stores in North and South Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia with sales of over $29 million.
The privately held company began issuing stock in 1965, being listed in 1971 on the New York Stock Exchange. By 1973, Eckerd Drugs, Inc. had 196 stores and two subsidiaries (18-store Deb Shops and Miller Office Equipment.
In 1976, Ed O'Herron ran for the Democratic nomination for Governor of North Carolina, but was defeated by eventual Governor Jim Hunt.
In 1977, Eckerd's Drugs, Inc. (headquartered in North Carolina) and Eckerd Drug of Florida merged, creating one of the country's drug store chains.
Ed O'Herron Jr. served on numerous boards, including Piedmont Aviation, Wachovia, Southern Bell, Akzona and Piedmont Natural Gas Company.
In addition to his business career, he also served as a state representative from 1951 through 1957 and on the North Carolina Advisory Budget Commission to the Governor from 1965 to 1969.
He had been recognized by many groups over the years, including the Charlotte News' Man of the Year (1971) and the University of North Carolina.