Elder Watson Diggs
December 23, 1883 - November 8, 1947
First Grand Polemarch
Laurel Wreath Holder
Founder Elder Watson Diggs, affectionately known as “the Dreamer”, was quiet, polished, scholarly, and a prolific writer. He was born in Madisonville, Christian County, Kentucky, on December 23, 1883, and was the eldest son of Henry and Cornelia Diggs, he had one brother, and one sister.
He received a one-room school education in Louisville, Kentucky, where he helped teach the younger children. Following graduation from Indiana State Normal School in the spring of 1908, Diggs enrolled at Howard University in 1909. While a student there, he developed a friendship with fellow Hoosier, Byron K. Armstrong.
During the summer of that year, Byron Armstrong visited his cousin, Irven Armstrong at Indiana University. Bryon was so impressed that he persuaded Diggs to enroll with him in the fall. Diggs enrolled at Indiana University in the fall of 1910 and was the first African-American to graduate with an A.B. degree from Indiana University’s School of Education. He subsequently earned his Master’s degree of Education from Howard University. Founder Diggs was an educator who held positions at public schools throughout Indiana. Following his death, School #42 was named in his honor where he served as principal for 26 years.
When the U.S. made it’s declaration in World War I against Germany, Diggs resigned as principal and entered the nation's first officer's training camp at Fort Des Moines, Iowa and was commissioned a lieutenant. After serving in Europe with the 368th Infantry, he became a captain in the Reserve Officers Training Corps. Diggs also was a past commander of the American Legion. Subsequent to the war, Diggs was instrumental in having the Indiana constitution amended to permit Negro enlistment in the Indiana National Guard.
Based on the hostile attitude and circumstances facing Blacks at Indiana University, Diggs decided to establish a fraternity on campus to give African-Americans support and sanctuary based on high Christian ideals and the purpose of achievement. Diggs assisted Byron & Irven Armstrong in designing the Coat of Arms, assumed responsibility for preparing the initiation ceremonial forms, completed the fraternity’s constitution and took a course in Greek heraldry and mythology to ensure the fraternity was rooted in authenticity.
Founder Diggs wrote the lyrics to the Kappa Alpha Psi Hymn and was Polemarch for the first six years of the fraternity’s existence. He also served as a Grand Board Member and as Grand Historian. He established the first nine chapters in addition to the Indianapolis Alumni Chapter. Diggs was awarded the first Past Grand Polemarch’s medal and the first Laurel Wreath. He also assisted in writing The 1928 Handbook of Kappa Alpha Psi.
The Elder Watson Diggs Award, the second highest award available to celebrate a member’s achievements or service to the fraternity is dedicated in his name.
Founder Diggs died November 8, 1947.