Piggott has basketball court named in his honor

Piggott has basketball court named in his honor
June 09
08:45 2022

When you think of the Winston-Salem Recreation and Parks Department, one of the first names that come to mind is Ben Piggott. To commemorate his many years with the city and service to the community, the basketball gym at the William C. Sims Community Center has been named in his honor.

Piggott spent 22 years as the senior director at the Sims Center. While there, Piggott implemented several programs for the center and the Happy Hill community. He positively impacted the lives of thousands of children and seniors with his kindhearted and loving nature while working at the Sims Center.

“I am very humbled and when I look at the floor, all I can think about is the senior citizens that were there, and all of these people who would come to the center to help the kids,” said Piggott. “It’s overwhelming just to see my face on the court.

“Tory (Woodbury) said it best, that my philosophy was always about the kids in the community and if you treat people the way you want to be treated, the doors will open. I don’t care what community you come out of, love rules all.”

There was a ribbon cutting ceremony held on May 14 to commemorate the naming of the basketball court, which now features Piggott’s name and face. There were scores of people in attendance to celebrate Piggott from all different phases of his life.  

Several individuals spoke about the impact Piggott had on their lives when they were growing up in the Happy Hills community. Woodbury, Cassandra Penn and Lt. Colonel Natasha Sunday touched on how Piggott played a role in setting them on the right path in life.  

Always the humble one, Piggott gave a lot of credit to those who helped him along the way. Individuals like Denise Scott Johnson, William Royston, Tim Grant, Sabrina Stowe, Annette Scippio and a host of others, were very helpful to Piggott in his time with the Recreation and Parks Department, he said.  

Grant, former director of the Winston-Salem Recreation and Parks Department, has a close bond with Piggott that dates back to before their time with the department and says this honor was well deserved.

“When you look at Ben’s work history with Recreation and Parks, he really set the standard. It wasn’t a job for him, it was more of a mission for Ben,” said Grant. “His mission was about making people’s lives better and I think he went about every day with that single purpose.”

There were talks about naming the gymnasium after Piggott prior to the pandemic. He says he attended a city council meeting where he thought they were going to discuss ways to stop the violence in the city. He was surprised by the mayor and others who disclosed they were moving forward with the plan to rename the gym at the Sims Center in his honor.

“Right then, when I heard that, I was about to faint because my mind was on community affairs,” Piggott said about hearing the news at the meeting about the gym being renamed. “It was a surprise and each council member got up and said individual words about how the programs that I’ve done have affected the whole Winston-Salem community and the Triad.

“The last person who talked was Councilwoman Annette Scippio. She got up and said, ‘Ben, the work you have done with children in the community in all of Winston-Salem, we want you to see this while you are living.’ It kind of blew me away and all I could think about was the resourcefulness of Ms. Denise Scott Johnson, the dedication of Mr. Tommy Gavin; the person who let me be creative, Mr. Tim Grant, he allowed me creativity. But I have to thank my mother for her heart and her spirit to let me know that you can go anywhere as long as you treat people the way you want to be treated.”

Prior to taking the position at the Sims Center, Piggott says he was told by several people that he would not last a year. There was a lot of gun violence going on around the city at the time; however, that did not deter Piggott from taking the position at the center.

A month after taking the position at the Sims Center, Piggott’s brother was murdered by his brother’s best friend. Even though Piggott and his family were deeply hurt from this, they chose forgiveness and that situation helped birth many of the programs that Piggott put into place at the center. He didn’t believe in retribution or revenge, but instead chose to use his brother’s death as a way to help others.

“I forgave him because he used to eat at our table,” Piggott said about his brother’s best friend. “The kids asked me what I was going to do, and I told them ‘We are going to let God handle it.’

“That same young man, I consider him my brother. That’s why I had to come out with programs that targeted nonviolence because we cannot take a life for a life. We got to show kids that when you have emotions and you’ve been hurt, you have to think before you make those moves. So, me and the young man, and his family and my family, are all as one and I love him. I hurt like everybody else, but it was because of my mother’s spiritual teachings that helped a lot.”

Thinking back on when he first started with the Recreation and Parks Department, Piggott did not think he would have this type of impact on the community. His goal was to simply help the kids and the elderly in the community to the best of his abilities.

“To be honest with you, when I came to the rec center, I was just happy being around kids in the community, but I never thought I’d leave a legacy or anything like that,” he said. “I just enjoyed what I did. To me, being around them was like payment. I loved those kids, just like they loved me.

“I looked forward to going to the center, seeing the kids, senior citizens, and the adults. I never knew what kid would want my help. Looking at the Tory Woodburys, looking at the Cassandra Penns and L’Tona Lamonte, who is the basketball coach at Winston-Salem State, and all those kids were young kids and now they are in their 30s and almost 40s. That’s why we have to be careful about the kids we come across because we have to love them all. I loved the ones that made it great and I loved the ones that didn’t do so good, because I found out that some of the greatest ministers in this city had a rough road to travel. So I had to love them all.”

Grant was able to see firsthand the tremendous impact that Piggott had on the kids in the community over the years. He says the ripple effect of the positivity that Piggott spoke into those kids’ lives is still resonating to this day.

“You talk about multiple generations of kids that he has impacted,” said Grant. “There are a lot of guys now that are grandfathers that had their kids or grandkids that went through Sims Center or went through Carl Russell.

“His impact upon young people in this community, I don’t think you can put a value on that. Ben was able to keep racial tensions down; he was able to encourage young men who might not have a job during the summer to continue looking for jobs, and he just cared about people. 

“I would say that when I first met Ben, that whatever he was going to do professionally, it was going to have to involve people. Some people just have a skill set and a personality that they have to work with people. To me, he struck me as being that person years ago. His greatest asset would be his contribution to people.”

As a young man, Pigott says he had a great village of people that pushed him to do well in life. His parents, teachers and coaches made sure that he made the right decisions to put him on the path to success. He says his mentors routinely pushed “direction and responsibility.”

During the ceremony, Piggott says he was flooded with emotions. Finally able to see the finished remodel, it was more than he could have ever imagined.

“I looked at the kids that were speaking and looking at the floor, I was imagining them as that 10-year-old, but then they weren’t talking like 10-year-olds,” he said. “What I was doing was just making comparisons in my mind, feeling grateful to have the chance to live and see these kids grow up. I followed them to high school, to college and some of them to their professional careers.

“I have to be humble about what I say because I didn’t plan this stuff out. This was all predestined from a higher power; I was just a vessel in this. So, when I looked at the floor, I was blown away. I told the people – and the gym was jam packed – I said, ‘Y’all, this is nice, but for me I have to give God the credit because a lot of this stuff I did not plan.’

“It happened by divine intervention and I was just a vessel in the world rolling with the kids I love and the community.”


About Author

Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

Related Articles


Featured Sponsor

Receive Chronicle Updates

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.



More Sponsors