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'It didn't destroy the history': Community undeterred after fire destroys historic home in Taylor

The historic home of Dr. James Lee Dickey was set to open as a museum, but a fire recently burned the house to the ground. That's not stopping the community.

TAYLOR, Texas — The home of Williamson County's first Black doctor burned to the ground on Sunday in Taylor, Texas.

On Tuesday, police made an arrest after a fire destroyed the historic home of Dr. James Lee Dickey. The home was set to open as a museum in the summer of 2023.

Now the ashes tell a story, and Jennifer Harris wants to preserve its history.

"Even though fire might have destroyed the house, it didn't destroy the history," Harris said. "To me, he was like the Martin Luther King Jr. of Taylor."

Dr. Dickey was a physician, humanitarian and civil rights advocate who moved to Taylor after serving in World War I. He had many accomplishments and, in 1953, he was named the most outstanding citizen in Taylor.

"This was a major thing because this just wasn't so, and in the Jim Crow era for a Negro in the South," Harris said.

RELATED: Suspect in Taylor museum fire thought it was a 'Pagan church,' affidavit says

Harris was Dr. Dickey's patient when she was five years old and, after learning his history, she became passionate to turn his home into a museum. The building was in its final phase when it went up in flames on Sunday.

Brandt Rydell, the mayor of Taylor, said he was disheartened to see it destroyed.

"My heart sank because I knew how much blood, sweat and tears had been put into realizing this vision," Rydell said.

He described Harris as a force of nature who won't stop until the Dickey Museum comes to life.

Mrs. Harris said when evil strikes, you must turn it into good.

"We're going to continue in the good works. I hope evil never produces itself again," Harris said.

The home was empty, Harris said, and none of Dr. Dickey's artifacts were destroyed.

"There are bright days ahead in celebrating Dr. Dickey," Rydell said.

What Harris said is most important is not a structure but the memory and legacy of Dr. Dickey.

"I want to focus on the legacy of Dr. James Dickey. You know, put all this behind us and let's move forward," Mrs. Harris said. 

For more information on the Dickey Museum, click here. 

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