College of Arts and Sciences

James Thackery Diggs

The Board of Trustees of Winston-Salem State University authorized the naming of the new campus gallery for James Thackeray Diggs in the Spring of 1989. James T. Diggs, Jr., better known as "T", was a "jack of all trades." He was a philosopher, educator and artist who always stressed the importance of pure art. "Art is a means of expressing, creating, doing your own thing, and being liberated." This was his philosophy for 45 years, so much so that he practiced what he preached; designed the buildings on WSSU's campus, enjoying the company of his colleagues, being surrounded by students looking for a better technique, and producing drawings, prints and paintings for pleasure.

James T. Diggs was born on July 13, 1915 to James Thackery Diggs, Sr. and Mable Kennedy Diggs. He attended Winston-Salem State University (then called Winston-Salem Teachers College) and graduated in 1934 with a Bachelor of Science degree in education. For three years after graduating Diggs taught elementary and high school in Hamlet, North Wilkesboro and Jonesville. Diggs later returned to his beloved alma mater and worked various jobs at Winston-Salem State University including serving as the assistant to the registrar, secretary to the dean, secretary to the president, assistant art instructor, and even serving awhile as basketball coach for the university from 1937 until the United State entered World War II. In 1943 Diggs enlisted with the United States Army. While in the service Diggs studied in Portsmouth, England, at the Southern College of the Arts. In 1944 James Diggs married Mary Louise Moss.

Following the end of World War II and his retirement from the service, James Diggs studied art and art education at Columbia University and received his master's degree in 1947. Always a student, he continued to study art during the summers at Columbia from 1948 to 1959. In 1953 he served as Chair of the art department at Winston-Salem State University, and in 1956 he co-founded the Associated Artists of Winston-Salem and co-established the Winston-Salem Gallery of Fine Arts, now known as the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art. In 1959 Diggs gave up his seat as Chair of the art department but remained teaching at Winston-Salem State until his retirement in 1979. In 1983 he was awarded the title Art professor emeritus. James T. Diggs, Jr. died on April 4, 1989, survived by his wife Mary Louise Diggs, their children and grandchildren, a loving university and thankful community.

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