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Friends, family and colleagues described him variously as a mentor, a great community leader and even as "the single person who contributed (the most) to the community and to mankind."
Judge James Dingle, 89, died Monday, April 29, 2019, at McLeod Regional Medical Center in Florence.
"The death of Judge Dingle is a tremendous loss to our community," said Sen. Kevin Johnson. "I don't know of a single person who contributed more to our community and to mankind."
Born Nov. 14, 1929, in Alcolu, he was a son of the late Johnny Dingle and Eliza Miller Dingle.
Dingle attended Midlands Technical College in Columbia and South Carolina State University in Orangeburg before returning to his hometown of Manning. Dingle had completed an entire career before many of his judicial contemporaries finished high school.
As an educator for more than 40 years with C.E. Murray High School in Greeleyville, Dingle also served as a football coach; an athletics director; an industrial arts teacher; and as assistant high school administrator.
But when asked about his long career, he just smiles and has a simple answer.
“I was just a down home country boy who went off and made good and came back home to work in my community,” he told The Manning Times in 2016.
Johnson worked with Dingle when the former served as mayor of Manning for more than a decade. He said Dingle's greatest deeds were performed outside the classroom; off the field; and outside the courtroom.
"Many will never know the full extent of his kindness and generosity because he performed many great deeds in a discreet manner," Johnson said.. "He will be sorely missed, but I find comfort in knowing that he was ready to go."
Friend William Brailsford met Dingle through a mutual friend, Leon Richburg.
"He (Richburg) had went and did some work for him a few times at his house, and he became a close friend of the family after that, and he would always visit us," said Brailsford. "He was a very good many to the faily and community. (He) always gave a helping hand."
Manning Mayor Julia Nelson expressed condolences for Dingle's family, saying it was like she had lost a father herself.
"Judge Dingle was a man of high moral standards," Nelson said. "He was humble, despite his achievements. With Judge Dingle, no one was invisible. Those in need and less fortunate were always his main concern and priority. He never hesitated to help anyone.
Nelson said that Dingle has been instrumental in providing guidance throughout her adulthood.
"He gave me such good advise and guidance during some of the most troubling time as mayor, she said. "(He was) always encouraging me to ignore those who were not kind but live by the principles of God and treat others as you would like them to treat you whether they treated you as they should. My heart is broken for the loss of his life here but I’m so happy for the true joy he is feeling with his Lord and Savior."
Clarendon County Council Chairman Dwight Stewart, who served on Summerton Town Council while Dingle served as a magistrate and municipal judge there, called Dingle a "true gentleman."
"He was a true gentleman who loved Clarendon County," Stewart said. "He was a very positive person and a great encourager to others. We will miss him."
Clarendon County GOP Chairman Moye Graham called Dingle "A good man and well-loved throughout the area, including Clarendon and Williamsburg counties and beyond."
Dingle had served both communities "tirelessly," Johnson said during a dedication ceremony at C.E. Murray held just a few weeks ago to name the school's gymnasium for the longtime educator.
The dedication reads, “Williamsburg County School District (has) renamed the C.E. Murray High School Gymnasium (the) James Dingle Gymnasium upon request from members of C.E. Murray Alumni, in honor of his 31 years of dedicated service to the students and district.”
Superintendent Dr. Rose Wilder approved the renaming. As former superintendent of Clarendon School District 1, she frequently worked with Dingle on various community projects and fundraisers.
"He was the greatest friend anyone could have," Wilder said. "I know that, as an educator myself, I certainly cherished his advice. It's amazing how much he was able to do in 89 years."
Dingle became one of the first black magistrates in the state when he was appointed as such in Clarendon County in 1983, just weeks after his retirement from the school district. Due to a South Carolina law that requires all state judges to retire at 72, Dingle had to leave the position in 2003. Upon his second retirement, he was recognized with a resolution by the state House of Representatives.
“I really didn’t want to leave, but I didn’t have a choice,” Dingle said in 2016. “Fortunately, the city had a place for me.”
The state law had no effect on municipal judges, which are governed instead by local ordinance. Thus, Dingle became a municipal judge for the city of Manning. Dingle also held concurrent duties in Summerton for about a decade.
It was through all this work that friend Kass Varn said Dingle "made a mark on so many, many people."
"He is one of those rare individuals who will live on in the lives he touched," Varn said. "God has taken home His own."
Like Stewart, Betsi Baker believes the loss of Dingle to the community is "tremendous."
"Not only did he magnify law and order, Judge Dingle's humor and love for life and the Lord was magnified consistently, and he will surely be missed personally and by every person who had the privilege to know this amazing man."
Mykie Vera called Dingle "a man of greatness."
"Before I moved to Colorado, he had so much advice and words of wisdom for me," Vera said. "He has helped a plethora of individuals in this small town, including myself. As much as it hurts me to write this, I do have to say, Judge Dingle, your legacy could never be undone. Thank you so much for everything. You will forever be missed."
Alice A. Dukes met Dingle casually as the two waited on separate tables at Fayz at the Lake.
"I enjoyed talking with him," she said. "I think everyone that walked by stopped, spoke and shook hands with him."
Debbie Daniels Russ said, simply, that "(Dingle's) community loved him."
"He will be missed by many. Prayers to his family. I know he will be an angel watching over his loved ones and the people of Clarendon County. Thank you, Judge Dingle, for your service to Clarendon County."