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

The Family

After 16 years of marriage, James and Magnolia decided to expand their little family by adopting a boy they named James Lee Dickey, Jr. Young James came up in a close-knit community though under constant surveillance of all the doctor’s patients and friends. Today, he and his wife visit Taylor frequently in support of his father’s legacy. With the arrival of a child, Dr. Dickey and Magnolia focused on another health concern in the African American community – that of violence. The Dickeys believed recreational space was vital to the young people of Taylor. Colored youths lacked a place to congregate or vent their energy in Taylor. White teenagers had Murphy Park with its Olympic sized swimming pool and its Bathhouse, the site of many parties and beauty pageants. Taylor also hosted the “Teen Den,” a recreational facility on the second floor of a downtown business for teenage dances, Mustang Creek Country Club, and a bowling alley. Taylor also boasted Candy Jim’s, the Howard, and the Palace movie theaters, however, African Americans were barred admittance. The Colonial Theater accepted African American customers but only after midnight. Dr. Dickey recounted an incident in which a colored man was pistol whipped for merely inquiring about tickets. Finally in 1943, the Rita Theater responded to Dr. Dickey’s entreaties for colored seating when it opened a new movie theater on Main Street permitting colored patrons access to the balcony during regular hours.  Bolder moviegoers reported their glee in throwing ice and popcorn on the customers below! Colored patrons had a separate entrance with stairs leading directly to the balcony. They even had a separate concession stand. Dr. Dickey bemusedly cited Oveta Culp Hobby, the Secretary of the Department of Welfare, saying, “race discrimination costs the United States from $15,000,000,000 to $30,000,000,000 per year.” He believed white America would soon come to its senses and have only one entrance and only one concession stand.

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