Physician, humanitarian, civil rights advocate and concerned citizen Dr. James Lee Dickey (d. 1959) had a profound effect on the quality of life in his adopted hometown of Taylor. Born in McLennan County in 1893, he attended Waco public schools and Tillotson College, Austin. Military service in World War I interrupted his training at Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, but upon graduation in 1921, he returned to central Texas to help his widowed mother raise his eight siblings. He settled in Taylor with his wife, Magnolia (Fowler) (1902-1959), as the city's only African American doctor at the time.
Dr. Dickey worked hard to address the public health needs of Taylor, calling for improvements to the local water supply and heading a community effort against an outbreak of typhoid fever in 1932-33. A clinic he opened in a house at that time expanded to serve residents of the city and counties in the surrounding area. He developed programs for infant care and was instrumental in admitting African American patients to state tubercular clinics.
Dr. Dickey's advocacy extended beyond health care to education and civil rights. He worked for passage of school bonds and improvements, and led efforts for local recreational facilities and federal housing. He was also a founder of the Taylor Negro Chamber of Commerce and served as a trustee of Tillotson College.
For his efforts, Dr. Dickey received numerous awards and honors, including distinction by the Taylor Chamber of Commerce as Man of the Year in 1952. His greatest rewards, however, came through his lasting contributions to the citizens of Taylor. As he noted, "to live in the hearts of those we leave behind is not to die."