James Lee Dickey: An Analysis of One African-American's Leadership in Jim Crow Texas

Polio Hits Taylor

Polio surfaced in Taylor during the summer of 1949. Dr. Dickey determined that 75% of Taylor's cases broke out in a three block section of the colored community surrounding an open sewer known as "stinky branch." The city immediately moved to raze the nearby houses and enclose the sewer but Taylorites in the area balked. Much of the white community could not comprehend the residents' reluctance to move. Dr. Dickey understood that most of the colored households had recently purchased their homes with earnings accumulated during WWII. For the first time, they did not have to face a Scrooge-like rent collector. Their homes were the primary possession that no white person could take from them. Renters could not find livable property at their price point. In an attempt to solve the sanitation crisis and still be empathetic with his people, Dr. Dickey coordinated with the city and the displaced homeowners to find affordable land, then move the houses from the contaminated area. Simultaneously, Dr. Dickey intervened with Truman's public housing program to bring one of the first subsidized housing projects to Taylor. Happily, most of the new locations were near Blackshear School. All in all, Dr. Dickey excelled in more than medicine. As a civic leader, he interfaced with the colored community, Taylor City Council, and the new Federal Housing Authority to compensate the homeowners, move the houses, eliminate the slums, and bring the first federal housing to the Avery edition of town.

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