From humble beginnings to the second-oldest family-owned business in Louisiana
Arriving in New York City from Wales in 1837, John Worthington Morris sojourned to New Orleans, working there until late 1840. Reaching Shreveport by steamboat on Red River in January 1841, he placed an ad in a town newspaper advertising various medicines for sale. Within a short period of time, the J. W. Morris & Co. drugstore was operating on Texas Street. The lineage of his early business has endured for over 180 years, continuing today as Shreveport’s oldest company, Morris & Dickson.
A $4 billion company with over 30,000 SKUs and the industry’s largest independently owned full-line distributor.
Paul M. Dickson, Sr., retires, appointing Jody Hatcher as Chief Executive Officer. Paul M. Dickson, Jr., is appointed Chief Operations Officer and Clayton Dickson, Vice President.
It’s an honor to lead a company that plays such a crucial role in our country’s healthcare system and has an unparalleled track record of success.
Jody Hatcher, CEO,
Morris & Dickson
Morris & Dickson is selected by the Louisiana Department of Health to distribute the Covid-19 vaccines statewide.
The Port warehouse is expanded to accommodate additional automation.
Morris & Dickson celebrates its 175th Anniversary and publishes the historical tome, “Since 1841.”
Paul Dickson hosts M&D’s 175th Anniversary celebration, inviting customers, vendors, and friends.
Paul Meade Dickson, Sr. is elected president of Morris & Dickson in March.
Morris & Dickson Specialty Distribution began, marketing specialty and niche pharmaceuticals to institutional, hospital, and clinical pharmacies in June.
October 17, 2014, after long enduring the after-effects of several strokes, M. Allen Dickson died peacefully in his sleep at age 92.
M&D breaks into the top 10 of America’s largest pharmaceutical distributors.
August 29th, Hurricane Katrina tore into the coastal regions of Louisiana and Mississippi, nearly destroying the region, bringing back memories of Hurricane Camille in 1969. The workforce of Morris & Dickson mounted an all-out effort to get medical supplies to the battered New Orleans area. While everyone else was fleeing that part of the country, M&D, singularly, was driving its trucks in, supplying any hospital or pharmacy that was able to stay open and give aid to the communities. Three weeks later, September 23, 2005, Hurricane Rita hit southwest Louisiana and eastern Texas. Morris & Dickson doubled its efforts, entering the Houston area and along Rita’s path, again supplying medical goods, computer stations, generators, fuel, and milk.
With unprecedented growth, the company needed and built a much larger warehouse, located three miles south of Kay Lane at the Port of Shreveport, using state-of-the-art automation in many areas of the building. Today, the Kay Lane location remains the administrative and data processing center. In the photo, Allen Dickson hand-picks the first order to open the Port Warehouse for operation in 2004.
The funnel cut a swath through the steel girders of the new administration building and dead-centered the original Kay Lane Admin Building, tearing off the roof. There were no injuries, and buildings containing products were undamaged. By midnight, a construction crew had erected a temporary roof on Admin and the next morning business resumed as usual with office workers temporarily relocated to Building 1. Later that year, the new Admin was completed, and the old building became the Data Processing center.
At the helm since 1952, Allen Dickson retired in 1995. Ascending to the presidency was Allen’s second son, M. Allen “Skipper” Dickson, Jr. Allen’s oldest son, C. Markham “Mark” Dickson II, became vice-president and board secretary. Allen’s youngest son, Paul Meade Dickson, Sr., served as vice-president and treasurer, later becoming secretary-treasurer.
Necessitated by a growing business desperately needing space, M&D’s relocation to 410 Kay Lane in 1984 was managed and overseen by the Dicksons. Quonset-style buildings were deemed best for being quickly erected and providing ample room. Buildings A, B, and C housed Sports South, a wholesale sporting goods distributor owned by the family, harkening to the days of John Morris and his early inventory items of firearms, ammunition, and hunting accessories. Circa 1992, Skipper Dickson purchased Sports South.
C. M. Dickson’s son, Markham Allen Dickson, was elected president of Morris & Dickson. Having attended M.I.T. University and Cal Tech, during his tenure as president, Allen sought to embrace the use of automation technology, but there was no space available on Travis Street for implementation. The business was land-locked.
Under Senter’s leadership, the Morris-Dickson name was removed from the retail trade. It was causing friction among owners of independent drugstores. M&D would begin a slow withdrawal from the retail pharmaceutical trade, selling off its drugstores and concentrating solely on wholesale distribution.
The economy during WWII was good to Morris & Dickson. Profits were up. With the end of Prohibition in 1933, sales of alcohol had helped the company’s bottom line. In 1944, M&D parted with the sale of alcohol in its stores, founding DRS Beverage Company (Dickson, Redding, Senter). That same year, Claudia Sentell Dickson Wilkinson died at age 73. Claudius died of a heart attack at age 54 in 1946. Selden Senter, co-owner of DRS, became president of Morris & Dickson.
After the legal length of time dictated by the contract agreement, in 1937 M&D re-entered the wholesale pharmaceutical business. The original 1932 sale had provided the necessary funds to pay off all loan debts. In retrospect, John E. Goode and Leo S. Cage, former M&D employees, and the M&D employees who left to work for Goode-Cage, were seen by Morris & Dickson as traitors at the time. However, had Goode-Cage not been founded and bought the wholesale business of M&D, it is possible the loans may not have been satisfied, bringing M&D to an end. McKesson & Robbins, a large competitor, had considered purchasing Morris & Dickson in 1929, but the venture ended after reviewing M&D’s financial situation at the time.
1924 – 1946
While serving aboard ship in the Navy during WWI, Claudius was boxing champion among the crew. It was a fighting spirit that would be needed during his time as president, enduring what was perhaps the darkest days of Morris & Dickson’s existence. The company had ventured into the retail trade, supplying its drugstores with M&D’s wholesale merchandise. Dickson Ice Cream supplied the soda fountains in all M&D stores. With the stock market crash of October 1929, the company had outstanding loans with banks in the northeast section of the United States. The loans were called. The banks suggested selling the drugstores, but Claudius knew that would put the employees “out on the street,” with many employees supporting families. In a bold move, he sold the wholesale business of Morris & Dickson to the firm of Goode-Cage, a pharmaceutical wholesaler just a half-block down the street. Goode-Cage had been founded by two former M&D employees. The stipulation of the sale stated M&D would not engage in the wholesale business for a minimum of five years, beginning in 1932. M&D purchased all pharmaceuticals and sundries for their drugstores from Goode-Cage. The two companies even exchanged building locations for several years. M&D drugstores had also sold beer and liquor and were financially hit by the years of Prohibition.
For reasons that are unclear, S. Allen walked away from the presidency to found the Dickson Ice Cream Company, located at 1601 Marshall Street. His brother Claudius was elected M&D president. S. Allen’s business produced various flavors of ice cream, and in the 1930s began distributing pasteurized milk. He would die in 1936, while president of Dickson Ice Cream, at age 46. His company closed in 1938.
After returning from serving in the U.S. Army during WWI, Samuel Allen, son of Dr. S. A. Dickson, was elected president of Morris & Dickson. His brother, Claudius Markham Dickson, returned from the Navy, was M&D secretary.
Claudia Dickson became Morris & Dickson’s president, uncompensated.
Morris & Dickson relocated to its new, three-story building on Travis Street. A fourth floor would later be added to give much needed room. Samuel’s older brother, Dr. William Lipscomb Dickson, became vice-president. William died in 1912, possibly from complications with diabetes, at age 53. Upon his death, his wife, Claudia Sentell Dickson, assumed his position on the board as vice-president. Dr. S. A. Dickson, while serving as Shreveport mayor, died during a trip to St. Louis in 1916.
Allen Morris left the company, moving to Arkansas. Dr. S. A. Dickson became president. Dr. Dickson was twice elected Shreveport Mayor.
“Morris & Dickson Co. Ltd.” incorporated, with Allen Morris, president, Dr. S. A. Dickson, vice-president, Eugene Hibbette, secretary-treasurer. Charles E. Perroncel was a board member, later treasurer.
Thomas Henry Morris died following a riding accident. Many businesses throughout Shreveport closed in mourning. The Presbyterian Church cloaked the church building for a month.
“Iler, Morris & Dickson” began when Dr. S. A. Dickson bought into the company that year. The son of a Caddo Parish cotton farmer, Dr. Dickson received his early medical training from Shreveport’s Dr. Thomas Jefferson Allen, who had married Catherine Morris, widow of John Worthington Morris. Dr. Dickson graduated medical school at the University of Louisiana (later renamed Tulane University).
The tragic death of son Henry to tuberculosis shook the company. Another son, Allen Dunlap Morris, entered the ownership with Robert Iler, along with Eugene Hibbette, son of a doctor who died during the 1873 epidemic, forming “Iler, Morris & Hibbette.” Hibbette left the firm in 1889.
Renamed “Iler & Morris,” the new management announced its “CASCARINE,” a medicine for constipation, headache, indigestion, fever, and ague, at a dollar a bottle, and received a patent for it.
Thomas brought his son Henry into the business, along with his son-in-law, Robert Iler, who had married Thomas’s daughter, Sally, and slowly began handing over the reins of the company.
1860s – 1870s
Thomas H. Morris (Photo courtesy of Peggy Marsh Liddell) led the company through the decades after his brother’s death. It weathered the Civil War and its ravages, Shreveport’s 1867 yellow fever epidemic, the Long Depression of 1873, and the city’s devastating 1873 yellow fever epidemic. During that epidemic, the drugstore remained open 24 hours a day, dispensing medicine. Circa 1860 store front photo of T. H. Morris Drug & Chemicals, Texas Street, is shown. Thomas stands to the right side in the doorway. “MORRIS” can be seen at the top of the edifice.
John died during Shreveport’s first yellow fever epidemic on October 23rd, exactly two months after his one-year-old daughter, Mary Amelia, succumbed to the disease. The entire city block the store was on burned down in October 1854, but the stock was in a fireproof warehouse in the back of the store and was saved. Thomas continued the business after the estate was settled in 1855, as “T. H. Morris, Wholesale and Retail Druggist, Chemist & Bookseller.”
John’s brother, Thomas Henry Morris, born 1828 in Wales, arrived in Shreveport, 1848, partnering in the business as “J. W. Morris & Bro.” John resigned as tax assessor and was elected a Shreveport City Trustee that year. Their drugstore carried many sundry items for a frontier town, including hunting equipment.
Morris & Dickson’s “Since 1841” is verified by this January 14, 1841, ad in the Caddo Beacon and Intelligencer newspaper. Morris’s affiliation with the Southern Drug Store is unknown, but he eventually opened the J. W. Morris & Co. drugstore on Texas Street, later advertised as “Next Drugstore to the River.” Within his first seven years in Shreveport, he married a widow with a son, fathered a son, and saw his wife pass away. He married a second time. In 1842, he was elected city tax assessor, serving until 1848. John helped organize Shreveport’s First Presbyterian Church in 1845, becoming a charter member.
John Worthington Morris, born 1820 in Wales, immigrated to New York City. With the passage of a few years, he was living in New Orleans, 1840, possibly seeking employment as a druggist.