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“It’s just something that needs to be done,” she said.

If Bursing’s introduction to the building was happenstance, Stokes practically had the place in his blood.

His father, also named Charles, knew the jail well, having served for years as a county court at law judge. The younger Stokes, a computer science major at Baylor University, is a member of the Dallas County Historical Commission, as were his father and grandmother. He drives in from Waco to attend commission meetings.

“I’ve always been fascinated by Dallas‘ history,” he said.

Stokes has focused on the old jail, photographing many of its distinctive features.

The death row cells. The gymnasium where hangings were said to be conducted in the jail’s early days. The double cell where Ruby was kept. The bullet holes visible in one wall. The railings that, according to legend, came from the Battleship Texas.

He’s taken a special interest in a cramped, windowless room up a narrow flight of stairs.

It’s known as the baptismal room.

Inside is a solitary bathtub, apparently used to baptize inmates. The walls are filled with murals of Jesus, painted decades ago by inmates. The dingy lighting creates an otherworldly aura.

“There must be a really touching story behind the murals,” Stokes said.

There’s an urgency to his quest to preserve them. The murals are peeling, the result of water damage. Their condition has deteriorated significantly, even in just the last few years.

Finding definitive answers about the room and its paintings has proven difficult. Stokes has tracked down old jailers and even recruited an art restoration expert.

He’s determined to raise enough interest - and money - to save the murals. He would like them removed, restored, and displayed somewhere like the Old Red Courthouse.

Then others could share his reaction at finding paintings of Jesus in such a dark and dreary place.

“I was amazed,” he said. “I just couldn’t believe that they are there.”

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