Justice for Bubba

Posted 3/24/21

Before 2 a.m. on the morning of November 19, 2020, Lewis Thomas Riggsbee was found lying in a ditch alongside Jack Bennett Road. This lifelong Chatham County resident had suffered a terrible head …

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Justice for Bubba

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Before 2 a.m. on the morning of November 19, 2020, Lewis Thomas Riggsbee was found lying in a ditch alongside Jack Bennett Road. This lifelong Chatham County resident had suffered a terrible head injury and was near death. N.C. Highway Patrol was dispatched to the scene to investigate a possible hit-and-run. Riggsbee eventually died in a medical facility on January 26, 2021.

On March 20, I attended his funeral. His friends, family and loved ones all called him “Bubba.” They all spoke highly of him.

Bubba worked for more than 20 years in the public works department of Chapel Hill, then another 30 years in restaurants, including The Rathskeller where he earned the nickname “Chef Rigg.”

His younger cousins remembered how he would watch over the kids playing in the neighborhood, intervening if someone got hurt. He also kept an eye on older relatives in case someone needed a helping hand.

Bubba may have been a man of few words, but he made good on his promises. He was as honest as the day is long.

Like many people in our community, I knew Bubba as the elderly man walking along U.S. Hwy. 15-501. He did not hitchhike. He would accept a ride from a friend, including many police officers who were kind to him.

But Bubba wanted to walk. As his niece put it, he walked with “pep in his step.” He walked with purpose: Bubba knew who he was and where he wanted to go. That will preach!

His pastor noted the metaphor of walking by faith not sight (2 Corinthians 5:7). We often find ourselves at loss for words after a tragedy. We have to keep moving ahead.

Philippians 4:5 came to my mind: “Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near.” Bubba lived into this verse as a gentle man — patient, kind and caring.

The second part of this verse may be interpreted in two meaningful ways. “The Lord is near” is a promise of comfort and care for those who are grieving. God is close by, like Bubba watching over those neighborhood children or elderly relatives.

“The Lord is near” may also contain a message of judgment. Since the Letter to the Philippians was written in the first century, believers have looked for the establishment of God’s kingdom of justice and peace. Many Christians profess a belief that Jesus will return to earth as the judge of all the nations and every human heart. At that time, what has been hidden in secret will come to the light of truth.

Since the tragic incident was first reported in November, investigators of the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office have searched for clues as well as interviewed Bubba’s family and friends in the effort to discern whether he was the victim of a targeted attack or struck by a motorist. The investigation is ongoing.

“Mr. Riggsbee was described as a kind, quiet man, who was familiar to our deputies due to his frequent walks and sightings in the area,” said Lt. Sara Pack. “Whether his death turns out to be the result of an unfortunate accident, fall or criminal act, our agency is committed to finding facts and hopefully providing his loved ones with a sense of closure following this tragic loss.”

If you or someone you know has any information regarding the tragic incident on November 19, please contact the Sheriff’s Office at 919-542-2911.

Gentle reader, this is a time for walking in the truth. Let there be justice for Bubba. And peace for us all.

Andrew Taylor-Troutman is the pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church and author of Gently Between the Words: Essays and Poems. He is currently working from home with his wife and three children.


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