Historian Louis Diggs Reconnects with High School Sweetheart

A love story that began in the 1940s in Baltimore City was rekindled in Baltimore County last year after more than six decades.

The story involves Louis Diggs, the very gentlemanly historian who specializes in the history of African-American communities and military personnel in Baltimore County. At 84 years old, the widower recently married his high school sweetheart, Elizabeth, 83, in an intimate church wedding.

“We are thoroughly enjoying life,” says Diggs. “We’ve been very fortunate. God is blessing us.”

Their acquaintance began as teenagers. Both living in the city at the time, Diggs and the former Elizabeth Scott would casually walk together to Booker T. Washington Junior High School. When they went to Douglass High School in 1948, Diggs says, “things changed. I saw her differently and she looked different. We ultimately became boyfriend and girlfriend.”

In 1950, he quit school in 10th grade. Not pleased, Elizabeth ended the relationship. After looking for a job, without luck, Diggs decided to make the military a career. He and a buddy signed up for the all-black National Guard (Transportation Truck Battalion #726) and eventually went into the Army. Diggs did not see his former girlfriend again until he returned in 1953 from a tour Korea. Hoping to resurrect the relationship, he asked Elizabeth to marry him. Her mother, who saw Elizabeth with a future in college, objected.

Life went on and he later met Shirley Washington, who lived among a large family clan in Catonsville. Diggs went to Germany and returned to Catonsville to propose. Shirley said yes. The young couple married in 1954, and raised four sons in the small community on Winters Lane—the subject of the first of his 11 books, It All Happened on Winters Lane.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth also married and had one son.

After tours in Germany, Korea and Japan, with most of his time spent locally at Ft. Meade and as sergeant major of the ROTC at then Morgan State College, Diggs retired from the military after 20 years in 1970, and then worked another 20 years as a supervisory specialist for District of Columbia Public Schools. He would occasionally see Elizabeth on the commuter train from Baltimore to Washington, D.C., where she also worked. They’d say hello.

Two years ago, Diggs’ wife of 61 years died. Elizabeth Scott, who lived in Gwynn Oak, also had lost her husband. They bumped into each other at the Randallstown Public Library and exchange pleasantries. It wasn’t until Elizabeth sent Diggs an email (which he unintentionally ignored twice, not recognizing that it was from Elizabeth) that she picked up the phone to call. They had an enjoyable conversation and a deeper friendship took root.

They found opportunities to be in the same space and spend time together. For example, after opening the Diggs-Johnson Museum in Granite in an abandoned church that dates back to the 1880s, which he found with fellow historian Lenwood Johnson, Diggs says that Elizabeth would bring antiques to donate. The two began seeing each other regularly for dinner and a movie. The romance flourished.

They married on Oct. 16 of last year at Open Bible House of Prayer Baptist Church in Baltimore. The reception was held at the Owings Mills Post 120. This month, the couple began combining households—he’s moving from his Owings Mills condo into Elizabeth’s home.

“Now we are best friends,” he says. “I enjoy being her companion.” As Valentines Day approaches, Diggs says they plan to do something special.

—J. Anderson

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