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

Scouting a Practice

One of James’ mentors had a practice in Taylor, Texas, approximately 90 miles south of home. When James Dickey stepped off the train in September 1921 to confer with him and another associate, he encountered a bustling but deeply segregated town. In 1921, Taylor was the largest Texas town between Waco and Austin. A booming railroad center, Taylor claimed to be an “inland cotton capital” and boasted a population of 6000. Approximately 24% of Taylor’s population was African American earning a living as sharecroppers, farm and ranch hands or railroad employees. Black citizens of Taylor were not permitted nor could they afford to live in the statuesque mansions in town. If they did not reside on one of the many Williamson County farms, they were relegated to settle downwind and downstream of the railroad in shacks that lacked all amenities except walls, a window and a door.  Poverty kept the black population subservient and Jim Crow laws kept it meek. Yet when Dr. James Lee Dickey, MD, whose soul compelled him to serve mankind, departed his train car, he unknowingly found his calling. He later reminisced, “Destiny brought me to Taylor. I came to stay a few years; I remained to do my life’s work.”

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