There are people in this world who never seem to have met a stranger. One of those people is Diane DeVaughn Stokes.
“As a child my grandmother would say when I was on the bus, I would know everyone on my bus bench. She would say, ‘You are too damn friendly for your own good.’”
Regardless of her grandmother’s warnings, Diane has spent her life making friends and using that talent to develop a career in the public eye as a radio and television talent and spokesperson.
HER EARLY YEARS
Born in Newark, New Jersey, Diane grew up in a diverse area where she was the minority in her Catholic School and had no concept of prejudice, she said. When her mother remarried and moved the family to Philadelphia then to Florence, S.C., Diane was 14. The change came a year into integration, she said, and was culture shock.
“I was wearing miniskirts and go-go boots and moved to an area where girls were still wearing skirts to their ankles. I think I probably looked like a hooker to them. But, I like to say the move south saved us. While it was sad to leave my grandparents, my new dad was a wonderful father,” she said.
Entering high school where she was sometimes referred to as the “damn Yankee,” Diane used her smile and friendly demeanor to break the ice. By her senior year, she was voted most friendly.
“I had to step forward in order for people to like me,” she said.
FINDING HER NICHE
Following high school, Diane attended the Florence campus of the University of South Carolina. In her sophomore year, she was asked by the president of the college to be a spokesperson for the student body during a time when the school was breaking away from USC to become its own university called Francis Marion. She was a cheerleader and member of the school newspaper staff, which allowed her to pursue her interest in writing. It was, however, her involvement as a school spokesperson that helped form her future.
“It was exciting being part of a growing institution,” she said. “Being at Francis Marion gave me the opportunity to be a spokesperson, although I never intended to stand up in front of people.”
What she found was that she was good at communicating and her career took off right after college when she was offered to co-host a radio show with Doug Williams, a Florence celebrity.
“Doug Williams helped steer my career,” she said.
She was also doing marketing and writing for a weekly newspaper. Her talent landed her a freelance job doing TV commercials and telethons for Channel 13, although they did not want a woman on staff, she said. It was a time when the TV stations were in Florence and not Myrtle Beach.
When Channel 15 came on the air, Diane quit a good paying marketing job with Holiday Inn, to host a talk show called “Pee Dee People” for the next three years. When changes were made at the TV station, she was offered a job as evening news anchor, she said.
“I didn’t want to be a news anchor. My contract said talk show host. I loved the upbeat features so I walked away,” she said.
By this time, she was ready to marry Chuck Stokes who also worked at the TV station and the two of them moved to Myrtle Beach where they took various jobs until Diane landed a show called “Southern Style” with Cox Cable (later TimeWarner and now Spectrum). That show made Diane a household name in the area and it ran on the air for 27 years. She and Chuck also went out on a limb, borrowed money and started their own video business called Stages Video Productions of which she is the president.
When “Southern Style” ended, Diane found another niche in radio and for the next decade worked for EASY Radio. She currently has a TV show with HTC called “Inside Out” with Chuck as director.
THE IMPACT OF VOLUNTEERING
While Diane is known for her media work over the last 46 years, she is probably best known for her giving heart. Throughout her career, she has volunteered to emcee hundreds of nonprofit events without pay.
Volunteering for nonprofits began very early in Diane’s life. Through high school and college, she volunteered for the March of Dimes, which eventually led to a small salary and title as first executive director for the Horry and Georgetown county division of the March of Dimes. She hosted the first big telethon in the area for the American Heart Association. During a time when nonprofits were less competitive and more respectful of each other’s events, she said, she was able to help more than one nonprofit.
As a recognized local media personality who has been called the “Emcee Queen,” Diane emceed for the Myrtle Beach Sun Fun Festival for 25 years, hosted the National Shag Dance Championships for the last 31 years, and has appeared—often with Chuck—in numerous productions of the Theatre of the Republic, the community theater in Conway.
For the last 15 years, Diane has been emcee for the Pawleys Island Festival of Music and Art.
She has been an activist in the area for keeping the arts alive serving on numerous committees, including 23 years on the City of Myrtle Beach Arts and Cultural Events Advisory Committee. She is also an elder at First Presbyterian Church of Myrtle Beach.
Her community involvement is almost endless and has been an integral part of her life.
“I learned early on it is very important to give back. In high school and college I was always doing philanthropic things,” she said. In fact, in her early days, Diane says she did more free work than she did paying jobs.
“It just made me feel blessed,” she said. Last year alone, she emceed some 60 events and continues to share her talents freely with many nonprofits like the Grand Strand Humane Society and serves as TV spokesperson for the Horry Georgetown Home Builders Association, Easton Industries and Back Pack Buddies.
“I feel that I am incredibly blessed. You are successful when you live in a place you want to live and do what you love every day,” she said.
About volunteering, she said, “It’s the right thing by God; it’s the right thing for community; and it’s the right thing for your heart!”