Legacy of a Legacy

Dr. James Lee Dickey was the first African American to be named Citizen of the Year in 1953. He has been recognized for his accomplishments throughout Taylor. File photos

When the new Legacy Early College High School was built, not everyone was clear why it would be named after Dr. James Lee Dickey.

Most of Legacy’s students know Dickey was important, but do not know why. They just know he was an African-American doctor in Williamson County during the 1940s and 1950s.

Janay Kemp, a senior at Legacy, agreed and said the name alone shows that the school is accepting of all people regardless of nationality.

"It shows that we represent the history of Taylor," she said. "If people know the history, they know they are welcome here."

Students also know that Dickey was important to the community. They couldn’t name all of his accomplishments, but knew he made an impact.

"He should get the credit that he deserves," said Jaden Johnson, a senior at Legacy. "He is an important figure to this community."

Cameron Sanchez, a senior at Legacy, said recognizing Dickey adds diversity to the history of the community.

"It's important because being from places in the south, especially in Central Texas, it's good to shine a light on the African-American culture because it is kind of sparse here," he said. "It's good to shine a light on everyone that lives here, not just what's popular."

Dickey was a noted African-America doctor who practiced in Taylor in the 1940s and 1950s. He was the only African American practitioner in Williamson County, and one of only 130 African American doctors in Texas.

He studied health problems among the African American population and learned some of the main causes of death, which included diarrhea among infants, complications during childbirth, tuberculosis, venereal diseases and violence.

One of his most important honors was being named Citizen of the Year in 1953. He was the first African American to receive the honor.

"It's important so that people of today honor his memory, said Chrystal Eddy, a senior at Legacy. "And, to make everyone else more aware of who he is and what he's done."

Taylor ISD School Board Vice President Shorty Mitchell championed the idea of naming the building in honor of Dickey after Dr. Ron Werner suggested it.

"For [Dr. Werner] to have that passion about Dr. Dickey, that made me do some research," Mitchell said.

Six months later, Mitchell brought it to the rest of the board.

"As an African-American, at that time [Dr. Dickey] probably had the biggest impact on this community. Not just the Taylor community, but the surrounding community," he said.

Mitchell said naming the building would also add an African-American to the list of people honored by the school with buildings, fields or facilities.

"He's part of Taylor history," Mitchell said. "From what he done as doctor, and the impact he had on the community it was appropriate. He earned that right."

Dickey, was born in 1893 near Waco, and attended Tillotson College – now Huston-Tillotson.

He attended Meharry Medical College, Nashville, Tennessee, and graduated in 1921.

Originally, he planned to practice in a larger city in the north or east, but came back to central Texas after his father was killed in an accident.

He came to Taylor to visit Dr. J Richard Moore, an African American doctor in the area, but Moore had moved to San Antonio.

Dickey made Taylor his home.

He bought parkland for African Americans, developed recreation facilities and worked with physicians of other races.

Dickey also helped build a bridge near Bull Branch Creek, which students used to cross to get to school.

Prior to the bridge being built, there was a large "foot-log" over Bull Branch Creek, and African American students on the east side of town that attended O.L. Price had to cross the log to get to school.

In 2016, Dickey was recognized with a cenotaph in the Texas State Cemetery. Huston-Tillotson also has a building on its campus named after Dickey.

Dickey’s home, located at 500 Burkett Street, is currently under construction to be restored and turned into a museum.

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