A graduate of Wayland Seminary in Washington, D.C., James Robert Lincoln Diggs became president of the Seminary in 1908. He received a B.A. and M.A. from Bucknell University and a Ph.D. from Illinois Wesleyan University. He was the first African American in the United States to receive a doctorate in sociology and the ninth to receive a Ph.D.
During Diggs’ tenure as president of the Seminary, the original building for Virginia Seminary was finally completed. Diggs also stressed the importance of religious training and introduced Hebrew into the curriculum. Under his administration the work being done at Virginia Seminary was said to be equal to that of the best northern universities.