CHARLES S. WIGGINS celebrated his 103rd birthday with family and friends on Sept. 8. He is a World
War II Navy Veteran. (Photos by Courier photographer J.L. Martello)
by Rob Taylor Jr.
Courier Staff Writer
When Charles S. Wiggins says he’s a proud graduate of Schenley High School, he can prove it—he’s got the yellow booklet from 1988, which celebrated the 50th Class Reunion for the Schenley Class of June 1938, as it’s written. The reunion was held at the Pittsburgh Hilton Hotel, now the Wyndham.
When Charles S. Wiggins says he’s a proud World War II Navy Veteran, he can prove it. He still has his “dog tags,” or Navy identification tags, from the ‘40s.
Wiggins told WQED’s Chris Moore in a show that aired in February that he was shipped to Great Lakes, Illinois, to receive naval training for the war.
He later told Moore that when he returned home to Pittsburgh after the war, there were very few opportunities for him. Wiggins became the first Black watchmaker in Pittsburgh, “but I couldn’t advance with it, because they wouldn’t accept me,” Wiggins said on WQED.
He later got a job at the post office, and made watches at home and at the post office.
“We have to take what we get here and make a good life out of what we receive, so don’t give in, don’t give up,” Wiggins told Moore on WQED. “Keep plugging, and keep moving, and good things have to come out of what we end up with.”
Wiggins, who was honored by the Pittsburgh Steelers on his 100th birthday in 2017, celebrated his 103rd birthday with family and friends on Sept. 8, 2020, with the New Pittsburgh Courier’s J.L. Martello in attendance.
“What a joyous day it is for me to be able to send birthday greetings to you—the oldest member of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History,” wrote Evelyn Brooks Higginbotham, the ASALH National President, obtained by the Courier. “God has blessed you with a long life, and you have in turn blessed us with your presence and service. As a veteran, a contributor to the welfare of Pittsburgh, and a member of the Dr. Edna B. McKenzie Branch, you are loved, valued, and remembered with sincere appreciation on this, your special day.”
CHARLES S. WIGGINS with his grandsons.
CHARLES S. WIGGINS, surrounded by family.
CHARLES S. WIGGINS’ identification tags from World War II.
A YOUTHFUL CHARLES S. WIGGINS, bottom left.