By Sydney Slotkin DuPriest
State senator, state representative, pharmacist and UM alum – of all Percy Malone’s (BSPH 65) titles, the one he is most proud of is advocate.
The former Arkansas state senator and 1965 pharmacy graduate is the School of Pharmacy’s 2018 Alumnus of the Year. He has spent his career fighting to represent the interests of those who may be otherwise overlooked – namely children, sick or incapacitated people and those living below the poverty line.
Originally from the small delta town of Rosedale, Mississippi, Malone’s parents had little education, but a strong work ethic.
“I came from a meager background,” Malone said. “My mother told me, ‘The way out of poverty is through education.’”
As a sixth-grader, Malone began working as a soda jerk in his local pharmacy, Lewis Drug Store. It was there he decided he wanted to become a pharmacist. After graduating from Rosedale High School, he completed his pre-pharmacy requirements at Delta State University before coming to the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy.
“I had people tell me that I would never get into Ole Miss, and if I did, I would never get out,” Malone said. “I didn’t spend my energy trying to prove them wrong. I spent my energy on telling myself I could do it.”
Malone recalls that he was not prepared for college, but that his professors at Delta State and Ole Miss spent extra time with him. His sister, while working at a factory, gave him a credit card to buy gas for his old car. When he left Ole Miss on weekends to work at Lewis Drug Store, his mother sent him back with enough food to eat for the next week.
“It wasn’t easy, but I had a lot of people helping me, and I credit that for being able to get a good education,” Malone said. “I’m not a self-made man.”
After graduating, Malone found himself in Arkadelphia, Arkansas, one Sunday afternoon, speaking with I.B. Fuller, the owner of a local drugstore, about a job. Fuller was looking to pass down the business, and Malone was looking to set down roots. Soon thereafter, Malone had stock in his first pharmacy.
“I worked very hard for many years to say yes to patients who needed me,” Malone said. “If they called me on Thanksgiving or Sunday or at night needing medicine, I wouldn’t tell them I was busy. I would go.”
From there, Malone went on to become one of the state’s top pharmacy innovators. He founded AllCare Pharmacy in 1972, which today has over 17 community pharmacy locations across Arkansas. He had one of the first pharmacy computer systems in Arkansas and expanded his business to fill prescriptions for long-term care facilities, assisted living facilities and correctional facilities, as well as specialty prescriptions for complex diseases.
As a pharmacist and businessperson, he focused on finding ways to be more efficient and patient-oriented. Malone’s concern for the consumer stemmed from the understanding his background had given him of not being able to afford medicine. In an effort to do more for patients, he ran for state government, and in 1995, began his first of three terms as an Arkansas state representative.
“As a representative, Percy worked to bring generic drugs into Arkansas pharmacies, and the traditional pharmacists did not like that,” said Donna Malone, Percy’s wife. “But he fought and he prevailed, and now every drugstore in America has generic drugs available. He passed his savings on to the consumer.”
As one of the only people in the Arkansas legislature at the time with a health care background, he also advocated to allow pharmacists to administer immunizations and worked to pass evidence-based medicine in the state.
In addition to health care advocacy, Malone stumbled upon what would become his other focus while in the legislature. On his first day as a state representative, Malone read a news article he couldn’t forget about an abused and neglected child. From then on, he made it his mission to introduce at least one measure per legislative session aimed at protecting children.
Along with his wife, he helped expand the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Arkansas where children could go to report abuse. Because of this, as well as the numerous child protection laws he initiated, the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Arkansas honored him with the first Senator Percy Malone Child Protection Award in 2010, which is given to someone in Arkansas each year.
He spent 18 years in the legislature, eventually becoming a senator for five terms, befriending then-future President Bill Clinton and continuing to fight for the vulnerable. He has also been lauded for his work pioneering innovative health care solutions that benefit assisted and long-term care facilities and their residents.
“Being in the legislature, I was able to speak the words of the people who couldn’t speak for themselves,” Malone said. “There are a lot of people that deserve a hand up and not a hand out.”
Malone’s generous spirit and care for those in need is well-known throughout the state.
Misty Huerkamp, staff pharmacist at AllCare Pharmacy, is an Ole Miss Pharmacy alum and Arkansas native who grew up hearing about Malone.
“He pretty much goes by the name Percy and everyone knows who you’re talking about,” Huerkamp said. “He has done so much for the profession of pharmacy and so much to serve those around him, giving to those who need help or a little encouragement.”
Another Ole Miss Pharmacy grad, Lauren Lyles, met Malone in 2014 during her second year of pharmacy school at the National Community Pharmacists Association annual meeting, after which Malone became a mentor to her.
“Percy values more than anything doing what is right instead of doing what is convenient,” Lyles said. “He has given back to broken communities that have suffered from generational poverty, domestic violence and limited access to health care through his businesses, philanthropic efforts and legislative work.”
Malone credits his Ole Miss education and the people he’s encountered along his path for helping him to reach a place where he can freely give back.
“Ole Miss gave me the opportunity to fail, and no one wants to fail,” Malone said. “It’s been a marvelous life, and I’m very fortunate to be able to give. My upbringing taught me that once you’re on top of the ladder, you don’t pull the ladder up behind you.”
Malone will be honored with the Alumnus of the Year Award at the School of Pharmacy’s Awards Banquet and Reunion Dinner on Saturday, April 21 at the Inn at Ole Miss.
“The School of Pharmacy is humbled and honored to call Percy an alumnus,” said David D. Allen, dean of the pharmacy school. “He is beyond deserving of this award, not only for his contributions to our profession, but for the way he embodies the Ole Miss spirit. He earned his influence by being a champion for vulnerable and forgotten people and has continued to use his time and resources for their benefit.”