Jeremiah Lewis Diman (1831-1881), professor of history and political economy, was born in Bristol on May 1, 1831. His father, Byron Diman, became governor of Rhode Island. He graduated from Brown University in 1851 and went on to study theology and philosophy, first with a clergyman in Newport, then at Andover Theological Seminary, and later in Germany. He graduated from Andover in 1856 and was a pastor of Congregational churches in Fall River and Brookline, Massachusetts. In 1864 he was appointed professor of history and political economy at Brown. He was always in demand as a lecturer and he spread his learning throughout the community. For a number of years he gave weekly lectures to a group of women, and also lectured at the Friends’ School and at the State Normal School. In 1879 he delivered twenty lectures at Johns Hopkins University, and in 1880 he delivered twelve lectures on theism at the Lowell Institute in Boston. He declined offers of professorships elsewhere, remaining at Brown until his death on May 17, 1881 after an illness of less than a week. He was independent in his religious views. Early in his ministry as a Trinitarian Congregationalist, he took part in an ordination at Channing Church, in Newton, Massachusetts, trusting, as he said, “that the act may be viewed as significant of an earnest desire on my part to do what I can to put an end to the unhappy religious dissensions of New England.” Edward J. Young, in his “Memorial Tribute” to Diman commented, “This spirit of independence and liberality subjected him to some annoyance and petty persecution. It caused him to be looked upon with suspicion as being tainted with heresy ... Had he been willing to accommodate his views to the received standards, his conformity would have brought to him instant popularity and praise. ... He preferred to formulate his own creed, to think for himself, even though he should stand alone and be cut off from sympathy and fellowship.” Robert P. Brown 1871 in Memories of Brown quotes this description of Diman, “Professor Diman is a Unitarian, who hires a pew in Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church, preaches mostly in orthodox Congregational pulpits, is in warm sympathy with the faith of the liberal Jews, and teaches Catholicism in a Baptist College.”
His son, John Byron Diman 1885, was ordained in the Episcopal Church and founded St. George’s School in Middletown. He resigned as headmaster of the school in 1916, became a Catholic priest, changed his name to J. Hugh Diman, and established the Portsmouth Priory School. When a group of St. George’s alumni gave a contribution on his birthday, Father Diman promptly returned half of it to St. George’s Memorial Fund. He was also the founder in 1912 of the Diman Vocational School in Fall River, Massachusetts.