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Life 100 Years Ago — By Tommy Purser

What was life like in Jeff Davis County 100 years ago. I’ve given short snippets of news that made the pages of the Ledger’s forerunner The Hazlehurst News each week in “The Ledger Looks Back” feature on this page.

The last names that appear in those old, tattered pages certainly are familiar even today. Because the county is full of those people’s descendants and the names live on and grow in numbers each year.

Names such as Roddenberry, Herrington, Reagin, Williams, Hutchinson, Yawn, Girtman, Hinson, Kirkland, and on and on.

A hundred years ago, there were no such thing as Republicans in Jeff Davis County, or at least no one would stand up and admit it.

As late as the mid-1970s, the late Doshie Buford, the longtime Jeff Davis County Probate Judge who conducted elections for decades, told me matter-of-factly, “A Republican cannot get elected in Jeff Davis County.”

My, how things have changed in just the last 40 years, much less from 100 years ago.

Looking back at those century old pages of The Hazlehurst News, I’m always struck by the various medicinal products advertised in the Ledger (See this week’s “The Ledger Looks Back”). Those advertisements were not just sometimes in the newspaper. They and other ones like them were in every paper, every week.

A hundred years ago, the Federal Drug Administration was less than 15 years old. The Food and Drug Act, signed into law by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906, was gutted by the Supreme Court in a 1911 case.

Changes were made in the law to improve it but for decades, well into the 1930s, problems with false claims about the effectiveness of various drugs plagued the American public.

It wasn’t until 1937 when the antibiotic sulfa drug manufactured by the S.E. Massengill Company killed 100 people that events came to a head. Congress passed the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938 which greatly expanded the regulatory powers of the FDA, to include requiring pre-market review of all pharmaceutical products and banning false claims. During the 1950s and 1960s the FDA gained additional powers

Over the next few decades the power of the FDA translated into marked increases in not only the safety of pharmaceuticals but also the prices.

But today, the nation’s opiod epidemic proves that citizens still aren’t as safe from false and misleading claims as they should be.  Opiods have negatively impacted the lives of millions of people.

In comparison, the widely sold drugs of 100 years ago were really not all that dangerous.

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