The Smith Richardson Foundation was established in 1935 by H. Smith Richardson and his wife Grace Jones Richardson. Mr. Richardson was a remarkable man with a business career successful beyond what anyone could have predicted from the simple beginnings of his firm in a North Carolina town. This firm, the Vick Chemical Company, which had been founded by his father, Lunsford Richardson, grew under his leadership to become one of the leading over-the-counter drug companies in the world. Richardson-Vicks, Inc., as it became known, was sold in 1985 to Procter & Gamble, Inc. Mr. Richardson lived by principles that are often termed old-fashioned, and he gave generously of this wealth. Few people have combined Mr. Richardson’s respect for traditional values with his willingness to innovate.
He believed in giving bright young people responsibility commensurate with their abilities. Throughout his life, he maintained a direct interest in people and in the institutions conceived to improve the lives of others. In setting forth his reasons for creating the Foundation in 1935, Mr. Richardson wrote:
“From the beginning, America, the new world…has offered to humble families, native born or immigrant, the Opportunity to gain a fortune…if they were diligent and lucky. With this fortune went the Right to remain secure in its possession and enjoyment for themselves and their heirs after them. Unquestionably, for two hundred years this Opportunity has played a large part in the building of the nation.”
Mr. Richardson pointed out the incentive that this “Right” and “Opportunity” had given to those who pushed the American frontier westward, as well as the impetus to “invention, discovery, trade and manufacture and all the varied development of our natural resources.” It was characteristic of him to capitalize the words “Opportunity” and “Right.” These were key words in his personal creed. He believed that “Opportunity” was something to be seized with zeal and pursued with the utmost diligence. His belief in a personal bill of rights was equally strong: a person rightfully owned what his industry brought him, and the free enterprise system permitted the maximum scope for that industry. It was these beliefs that enabled him to transform his father’s small mortar-and-pestle drug manufacturing business into an industrial concern of international stature.
By 1935, a strong social consciousness had begun to flourish in this soil of stout individualism. To this end Mr. Richardson wrote of the responsibilities required of a mature and reflective citizenship: “I believe the need for the time and thought of able men is that they be applied to the increasingly weighty problems of government and the serious social questions which now confront us and will continue to press for solution in the future…the greater the material wealth of the citizen the greater are his obligations to the State and Nation…the obligations to give his time and thought to these public and social problems.”
The Foundation continues to support programs that are consistent with the vision of its Founder.