North Courtland’s first Fire Chief leaves behind legacy

North Courtland Volunteer Fire Department’s first fire chief, Lester B. Diggs, poses in front of a new fire truck he had helped the station secure during his service to the department. Pictured from the left are former North Courtland Councilman Everett Mayes, former Fire Chief Lester Diggs, Assistant Fire Chief Bud Smith, and former Mayor Ronald Jones.

Lester B. Diggs, the first fire chief of North Courtland Volunteer Fire Department, passed away Friday at the age of 79.

Diggs had served as the fire chief for 33 years from 1981 to 2014, according to his brother Elijah Diggs.

"He was the first and only fireman until he got sick," Elijah Diggs said. "He was a good citizen. He worked with the town on other things and was involved even outside the fire department."

Lester Diggs, who was also an army veteran, was dedicated to his community according to those who loved him and knew him best. 

Former North Courtland Mayor Ronald Jones said Diggs was a steward for the church where he attended, Jackson Chapel CME Church.

He was the Sunday school superintendent for many years, said Jones. Even if he was sick, Jones said he would drive to church every single Sunday.

Diggs helped the community, often volunteering Saturday mornings to help clean up town streets or county roads.

Jones said Diggs also had dreams for the volunteer fire department that he helped make happen before his passing.

"There were two things he wanted to do," Jones said. "Get a new fire truck and a new fire station. One of the last (town council) meetings he came to, we approved a motion to apply for a grant for the new fire station."

Jones said soon after the council moved forward with the new station, Diggs suffered a stroke.

"Back in 2016, we brought him down to see the fire station at the grand opening. For me, that was one of the happiest days in my term - for me to see the smile and joy on his face. I was just glad he got to see the building himself."

Jones said Diggs and his brother each worked hard for the town and the fire department. It was Elijah Diggs who helped the town secure a property for the new fire station, Jones said. 

According to Jones, Elijah sold the property to the town, although he had been offered a much higher price from another individual. It was Lester who helped ensure the building had two bays rather than one.

"Both of those brothers, they work hard for the community. They're my role models," Jones said.

He hopes to see the fire station named after its former fire chief someday soon.

"Most people around town know him, but most don't realize how hard he worked or what it took for him to run that fire department," Jones said. "He was a great citizen. A great person. He was dedicated and worked hard for the community."

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