Now others are coming to know the roles that Green Valley Pharmacy and Leonard Muse have played.
The pharmacy was recently named a local historic landmark, and Muse was recognized as an example of “the triumph of the spirit and the indomitable will of one man.”
Quiet and humble, Muse has little to say about the honor. He didn’t attend the County Board meeting where his neighbors testified about him and where a proclamation was issued and photos were taken. He has rarely talked to the news media, except when he was trying to push the community to tackle a persistent drug-dealing problem.
He has preferred staying at the pharmacy, which is open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., seven days a week, closing only occasionally, such as when a fire shut the doors five years ago.
It is clear that Muse, at 89, is still very much in charge. He dons his white jacket and shows up nearly every day to work side by side with his granddaughter, who also is a pharmacist. From his spot behind the counter, his calm brown eyes assess visitors and customers alike, his movements sure and deliberate. He knows the price, to the penny, of every item in stock.
The pharmacy remains a throwback, with its Formica lunch counter, notary service and fax machine. Clerks behind a long counter retrieve merchandise for the customers. Candy for schoolchildren is within reach, and water and soft drinks are stacked in the crowded aisle in front of the tall pharmacy counter at the back.
His staff still offers home delivery of prescriptions to regular customers. And Muse still offers warm encouragement and the careful, solid advice of a man who knows the travails of the families from the neighborhood.
“Things have improved,” he said last week from his dark-green corduroy recliner behind the counter while the store’s television blared the latest news from Congress. But “after integration, we didn’t have the community spirit we had then. The youngsters now — it’s a different story. They don’t know the history of black people.”
They could learn from his life, an experience that required both fortitude and cunning.
‘Doc saved a lot of them’
Muse was born in Delray Beach, Fla., and after high school graduation, he enlisted in the Army during World War II. Later, he enrolled in Howard University’s pharmacy school, graduating in 1948.
He worked for two years at a pharmacy in Southwest Washington until former classmate Waverly Jones suggested that they set up their own shop in Arlington.
They found a vacant grocery store, and after a few years of renting, Muse bought it from William and Agnes Hyman, whose family had previously operated the market.