Dr. John Wayne Diggs
These are some of the men of Miles Chapel Church who became known on a national and international level.
William Baskerville became owner and director of Baskerville Funeral Home, which was located at 519 Old Fulton Road in Martin.
Jack Thompson of Webster, Mo., earned an administration of justice degree from Union University. He went on to serve as a field representative for General Motors. Mayor Frances Slay honored Thompson in 2003 for the renovation of an old, historic building on the corner of Washington and St. Charles streets in downtown St. Louis, now known as Plaza at Jack Thompson Square.
He earned a Better Downtown Award, which is given for projects of regional impact that call attention to downtown revitalization throughout the metropolitan area and beyond.
Thompson has been married to former Missouri State Rep. Betty L. Thompson for 52 years. Betty is a motivational speaker for many black history programs and political rallies across the country. She is also been a speaker at the University of Tennessee at Martin as well as area churches.
The Thompsons have four children – Kwame Thompson, who is executive vice president and general council of Kwame Building Group and managing partner for Kwame Developers; Tony Thompson, CEO of Kwame Building Group, Inc.; Sonja Thompson, Club Isis owner; and Tyrone Thompson, vice president of Kwame Construction and president of Dr. M.L.K. St. Louis Support Group.
Dr. John Wayne Diggs was the son of the late Jerry Cornelius Diggs and Tommie Lou Diggs. He was born March 23, 1936, in Gleason. They moved to Martin’s N.C. STL. Railroad section yard in 1940. Dr. Diggs was a student at Weakley County Training School.
Dr. Diggs received his B.S. degree from Lane College in Jackson and his Masters and Ph.D. degrees from Howard University.
As vice president for biomedical research at the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) in Washington D.C., he headed the division that has primary responsibility for programs to support biomedical research and that deals with such issues as funding, training, technology, transfer, university-industry relations, and fraud and misconduct in research.
Prior to joining AAMC in June of 1993, Dr. Diggs was deputy director for extramural research at the National institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., where his administration and leadership impacted on the distribution of more than $6 billion of research conducted at university and research centers in this country as well as abroad.
Dr. Diggs held a number of positions as a researcher and Health Scientist Administrator at both Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and the National Institutes of Health. From 1983 to 1990, Dr. Diggs was the director of the Division of Extramural Activities, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which ash national leadership responsibilities for AIDS research.
In this position, Dr. Diggs played a pivotal role in ensuring that research dollars were deployed in areas where the needs were most critical.
Through his initiative and creativity, he was able to accelerate the grant application and review process, ultimately speeding the research needed to combat AIDS.
Dr. Diggs passed on to eternal rest at home in Silver Spring, Md., May 15, 1995.
His brothers, Tommie and Cornelius, have made their marks in life as teachers.
Tommie Diggs completed his education at Lane College in Jackson and began his teaching career in Greenfield.
After being drafted to serve in the Korean War and completing his military years of service, he married and moved to Detroit. His educational career began in the Detroit Public School system and he served many exceptional years grooming young people for fulfilled and enriched lives. Through the last years of his career, he served as principal of Sherrard Middle School where he retired after 40 years of service.
Cornelius Diggs completed his education at Lane College in Jackson and began his teaching career in elementary education in Weakley County.
He married and for a short time, he and his wife taught students in the Weakley County School System.
After a few years, he and his wife moved to Decatur, Ill.
He continued to teach in the Decatur School System cultivating young students and preparing them for the future. He retired after 30 years of service.
I am proud to say that I was the one who would carry them to see the afternoon “shoot ‘em up” movies at the Capitol Theater in Martin on Saturdays.
Carmack Smith was a member of Miles Chapel and an alumnus of the Weakley County Training School. He completed his education at Lane College in Jackson with a Bachelor of Science degree and began his teaching career in Gibson County.
This young man got a Masters degree at UT Martin and furthered his studies at Tennessee State University. He was vice president for Trenton Housing Authority for 20 years and served on the Gibson County Election Commission for 15 years.
He was also past president of the Gibson County Teachers Association and member of Alpha Psi, Phi Beta Kappa.
On April 13, he will be inducted into the Gibson County Football Hall of Fame.
“Mack” has been married to his wonderful wife for 57 years. They have a son – Michael and two grandchildren.
P.S. Way to go cuz. God bless.
This completes this year’s Black History Month series talking about the history and members of Miles Chapel Church.
Thank you to the Weakley County Press readers for allowing me to share my stories. May God continue to bless you all.
Editor’s note: Col. Bob Smith has been a frequent contributor of historical accounts throughout Weakley County during Black History Month.