James Austin Diggs

June 24, 1935 ~ May 18, 2019 (age 83)

Obituary for James Austin Diggs


James Austin Diggs was born in Boston, Massachusetts on June 24, 1935.  As he would say, “In the middle of the depression!”.  He was married for 56 years to Gladys Louise Diggs who preceded him in death by 14 months.  James departed this life late on May 18, 2019 after a long battle with various illnesses.

He was the only child of Austin James Diggs and Evelyn (Roseme) Diggs (both deceased).  During his early years, James grew up in the Roxbury section of Boston on Laurel Street surrounded by family.  It was in the City of Boston, after a two-year courtship, that he met and married Gladys Louise Diggs of Opelika, Alabama on June 4, 1960 at St. Richard Church (Roxbury, Massachusetts).  To this union was born a son, James Ray Diggs and a daughter Necole Marie Diggs.  In order to be closer to his granddaughter (Jasmine Monique Diggs), James, Gladys, Necole and Evelyn Diggs (mother now deceased) all moved to Laurel, Maryland in 2006.

James graduated from Brighton High School in 1954 where he played tennis, ran track and was a part of the school patrol.  In the yearbook (the Gothic), his quote was “Now have I done a good day’s work”.  That principal of hard work carried throughout his life and was instilled into his family.  James truly cared about his country and after high school, joined the US Army serving on active duty in Germany until honorably discharged in 1962.  This began a lifelong association with the US Army.  James rejoined the US Army through the Army Reserve in 1976.  He started as a P.F.C. generator repairman and worked his way up to Sgt. First Class Senior Instructor in Infantry Tactics.

 James did a “good day’s work” throughout his life working for Honeywell for many years.  He started as an environmental test technician on gyroscopes.  He eventually moved on to be the “first technician to build, test, and ship a three-element array called a night scope”.  Along the way he received an Associate Degree in Business Administration. 

James’ interests extended well beyond the work and military worlds. He truly cared about his community.  As a result, James was heavily involved in community service work.  For example, James joined an organization called Model City where he was elected to its board for the City of Boston in 1970.  The Model City Program was developed under the Demonstration Cities and Metropolitan Development Act of 1966, a Federal Program aimed at improving the quality of life of inner-city people throughout the nation.  He was a member of the William E Carter Post (American Legion) for 41 years of its 100-year history.  The Carter Post is oldest African American Post in the United States and James was its historian for a number of years while he lived in Boston.  James received honors and awards from organizations such as “My Friend the Policeman”, Toastmasters and the “Paul Parks Veterans Community Service Award”.

James (a.k.a. “Omar” by close family and friends) had love for life, personal interaction and language.  As a result, he had a wide array of personal interests.  Omar loved cooking showing his son and daughter how to cook and keeping his book of favorite recipes.  Omar cooked everything from BBQ, a full Sunday breakfast, oyster stew to beef tongue.  He loved to learn about different cultures and languages.  Omar kept a pocket note pad with phrases of different languages.  He was an avid reader of the newspaper, Reader’s Digest and National Geographic magazine.  He also loved Boston sports teams but began to like the Washington Redskins after moving to Maryland.  However, he would only wear Boston sports gear.  Once in Maryland, James became a painter, school crossing guard, election official, notary and loved swimming.  Throughout his life, James was a free spirit who was open to new ideas and challenges that made him an extra special light in the lives of those he touched.

James will be lovingly remembered by his son James Ray Diggs, wife Eileen and granddaughter Jasmine Monique Diggs of Laurel, Maryland; daughter Necole Marie Diggs of Laurel, Maryland; grandson William Hardy (BJ) Bilge of Arlington, Massachusetts; Granddaughter Taishan Gary, great-grandson Kaiden Xavier Gary of Montgomery Village; sister-in-law Mae Masters of Hyde Park, Massachusetts; sister-in-law Amanda Maddox children Jermanda, Timothy, Christina, and Christian; sister-in-law Carol Jackson, husband Derrick; brother-in-law Pastor Michael Williams (Officiate), wife Carla, sons Anthony, David, and Steven, each of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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