MANNING - Lovingly remembered as Judge, J.D., coach and even Beau, the Honorable Judge James Dingle's legacy will live on in the hundreds, if not thousands, of lives he touched as an educator and coach, magistrate, municipal judge, Mason, Rotarian, Lion, Veteran of Foreign Wars, devoted member of Historic Trinity AME Church and the dozens of other mantles that he wore during the past 89 years.
With family members and friends by his side, Dingle died on April 29, just four months after his beloved wife of 50 years, Viola, died.
Less than one month ago, the C.E. Murray gymnasium was renamed in Dingle's honor as the James Dingle Gymnasium. Dingle served in various capacities at the Williamsburg County school, including industrial arts teacher, athletic director, head football coach and bus supervisor.
More than 650 family members and friends attended Dingle's funeral service on May 5 with many of them sharing stories and memories of their loved one.
The Rev. Thomas E. Vassar turned to the Scriptures in his remembrances of Dingle.
"Luke 1:14. I would say that verse applies to Judge Dingle," Vassar shared. "I would say that he was great in the sight of the Lord."
Vassar compared Dingle with the life of John the Baptist.
"John the Baptist needed what only Jesus could do in his life," Vassar said. "I believe that about Judge Dingle."
Vassar talked about the hundreds of young people whose lives Dingle touched.
"They are better individuals today because of him," Vassar shared.
"I am humbled that a man like that would call me a friend," Vassar added. "He left huge footprints in my life. I thank God for Judge Dingle."
Jason Montgomery and Tiffany Burgess, who worked alongside Dingle at Manning's Judicial Center for the past nine years and four years, respectively, talked about Dingle's exuberance for life and how he was a mentor for them both in the workplace and in their personal lives.
"Every day, I had a huge task," Montgomery said with a bittersweet smile. "I had to try to keep up with Judge Dingle."
Montgomery said his work day was filled with smiles and laughter when Dingle was around.
"To work with Judge Dingle was an honor and a privilege," Dingle's prot g shared. "Rest easy now, Judge, for I know you've heard the words, well done thy good and faithful servant. Rest easy now, Judge. Your job is done. Your work is complete. Rest easy now, Judge, for I know you've been reunited with your one true love once again. Rest easy now. Enjoy the fruits of your labor. Rest easy now, Judge. Rest easy now, knowing we've got it from here."
Manning Mayor Julia Nelson said Dingle "always wanted to give and do for others."
"He chose to bless and not burden his fellow man," she added. Nelson, who sat with Dingle the night before his death, said her dear friend was "prepared" to go.
"All of us truly loved and respected Judge Dingle," Nelson said.
Sen. Kevin Johnson harked back to the words of the late Martin Luther King Jr. as he remembered Dingle.
"What we do for others," Johnson said. "That was Judge Dingle."
Johnson also turned to the Bible as he remembered his dear friend.
"Judge Dingle taught us how to live," he added. "I turn to Philippians 2, verses 3 and 4 and 14 and 15. 'Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of crooked and perverse action, among whom ye shine as lights in the world.'"
Former District 36 Sen. John Land, who was friends with Dingle for more than five decades, said he would "forever remember him."
"We called him Huggins Street J.D.," Land said with a smile. "He will always be remembered for how he made you feel."
Land said that Dingle shared with him some astute advice on politics. Land reminisced about losing his first bid for office and that the next time he ran and won that some people didn't have kind remarks about his win.
"I said, 'I'm going to fix that old so and so,'" Land remembered telling Dingle. "He told me, 'You know, I bet you could get that fellow on your side if you tried.' That was my game plan for my next 38 years in office."
Land said that Dingle is remembered as a mentor and mediator; however, he considered Dingle a "reconciliator" because he was "always bringing people together."
"Manning is a better place today because Judge Dingle lived among us," Land added. "South Carolina, the county of Clarendon and this nation is a better place because James Dingle was a man who served others. I am a better person today because James Dingle was my friend. God bless his soul."
Glen Kennedy, a Williamsburg County magistrate and former student and athlete of Dingle, said, "I loved this man. I was asked what he was to me. He was my buddy. We were really buddies. He was at times my uncle. He was at times my brother. He was at times my father."
Kennedy said that one of the ways that Dingle was "so special" was the way that he made everyone he knew and loved feel "special."
"He knew what to be to you when you needed it," Kennedy added.
Dingle's daughter, Cynthia Richardson, used one word over and over to describe her father, "amazing."
"He was an amazing man to so many people," she shared. "My heart is broken. There's a hole in my heart and in my life."
Richardson said that although she and her late brother, Willie G. "Billy" Richburg, were youngsters when their mother married Dingle, she could not have designed a better man to be her father than Dingle.
"He was so full of love and wisdom," she said. "He made life fun with his fun, fun and exciting. Yes, he could correct you when you needed it, but he was fun and exciting. He even made getting in the car and going to Walmart fun."
Richardson shared a story that she said described her father perfectly. She talked about going to a restaurant for dinner. The restaurant's parking lot was packed, but there was one space available directly in front of the door.
"He told us, 'OK, everyone hop out, and I will park the car and come inside,'" Richardson said. "'Even though that place doesn't have handicapped parking written on it, what if someone comes along that is handicapped? I am not gonna take that place.' That was the kind of person he was. He was always looking out for people he knew and even people he didn't know."
Dingle's granddaughter, Meshia Davis, said he taught her that love is an "action verb."
"I want his legacy to be that he taught us how to love," Davis said. "He loved me unconditionally. I experienced his love every day. I save love. He loved my grandmother. He loved every person he came into contact with. He showed love everywhere he went."
Like several speakers before her, Davis turned to the Scriptures to describe her grandfather.
"He taught me to always be good to people," Davis added. "1 Corinthians 13:4 describes him best. 'Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast.' That was my grandfather."
Dingle, who served in the Army during the Korean War, was given military honors at his funeral. At the end of the service, Army PFC Terrence Johnson proudly folded the flag that had been draped over Dingle's casket, and Army Sgt. Jermaine Faders-Throne played taps on his bugle from the rear of the venue. Both soldiers are stationed in Charleston.
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