Pastor, civil rights leader retires after 50 years of service

Dr. William P. Diggs,86, has retired as head pastor of Trinity Baptist Church. Diggs is a former educator and civil rights leader credited with improving his church and the community of Florence.

Rev. Diggs and his wife, Clotilda, came to Florence in 1962.

He helped organize the first civil rights sit-in in South Carolina on February 12, 1960 at Friendship Junior College in Rock Hill.

Close friends say Diggs was instrumental in securing peace during the riots of 1975 in Florence after a police officer shot a black man during a traffic stop.

"In 1975 when we had the riot in Florence, Rev. Diggs spent seven days, day after day, trying to keep peace in the community," said Jerry Keith.

"During the 60's and the 70's, at that time the church was the hub of the black society. And of course he was the leader of one of the leading churches so therefore his hand was in moving the things around that should be," Rev. Jeanette Cooper added.

He led his congregation through those rough years and led his church to make a difference in the community.

Diggs taught at Benedict College and received honorary doctorate degrees from five colleges.

Every year, Trinity Baptist Church donates nearly $40,000 to area colleges.

The church also has a credit union with nearly $3 million in assets to help families.

"Bill has put his soul into trying to lead them in a manner that would show he was interested in the total being of a Christian," said Clotilda Diggs.

Dr. Diggs has received many awards including the Order of the Palmetto, the highest civilian award given by the Governor.

He received the "Building Bridges Humanitarian Award" from the Greater Florence Chamber of Commerce and the "Whitney Young Award" from the Pee Dee Area Boy Scouts of America.

"I always sought to cause that church to have an impact and impact from a positive point of view upon the community," Diggs explained.

Dr. Diggs will be honored with a retirement celebration and legacy dinner on Friday, March 1 at the Florence Civic Center at 7 p.m.

For more information on the dinner, you're asked to call Trinity Baptist Church at (843) 662-7015.