Dr. Herbert Smitherman was a pioneering executive and professional chemist at Proctor & Gamble who led the way for other African-Americans at the prestigious company in the 1960s. He was the first black person with a doctorate hired at Proctor & Gamble.
With a Ph.D in physical organic chemistry, Dr. Smitherman developed a number of incredibly popular patents, including Crest toothpaste, Safeguard soap, Bounce fabric softeners, Biz, Folgers Coffee and Crush soda, to name a few. Not only are they still on the shelves, but many of them are on display at the Cincinnati Museum Center in the featured exhibit, “America I AM: The African-American Imprint.”
Nicknamed the “Jackie Robinson of Proctor & Gamble,” Dr. Smitherman spent 29 years there before turning in his labcoat to work as a professor at Wilberforce University. But after serving at the historically black college, Smitherman turned his attention to starting a high school called the Western Hills Design Technology School to help black students perform better in math and science.
A child of the south, Dr. Smitherman’s family lived in Birmingham, Alabama, where his father served as a reverend. A young Smitherman would see his father’s church burn down twice during their push for voting registration and voting rights.