Documenting the American South

Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina
Commemorative Landscapes of North Carolina
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  • Monument Name

    James B. Duke, Charlotte

  • Type


  • Subjects

    Historic Educational Figures

    Historic Philanthropic Figures

  • Creator

    J. Brett Grill, Grand Rapids, MI, Sculptor

  • City


  • County


  • Description

    The larger than life-size bronze statue to James B. Duke depicts him in a 1900 style three-piece business suit. He stands with his right foot forward, a cane in the proper left hand and the right hand in pants pocket. A pocket watch chain leads to the vest pocket.

  • Dedication Date


  • Decade


  • Geographic Coordinates

    35.205740 , -80.836460 View in Geobrowsemap pin

  • Series

    Trail of History, Charlotte

  • Supporting Sources

      Durden, Robert F., 1986. “Duke, James Buchanan,”, (accessed July 8, 2023) Link

      “James B. Duke,” JBG Sculpture, (accessed July 8, 2023) Link

      “James B. Duke,” Trail of History,, (accessed July 8, 2023) Link

      “James Duke,” Charlotte Mecklenburg Story,, (accessed July 8, 2023) Link

      “Trail of History-James B. Duke,”, (accessed July 8, 2023) Link

  • Public Site


  • Materials & Techniques


  • Sponsors

    Trail of History Inc.

  • Subject Notes

    James B. Duke, born in 1856, the son of tobacco giant and philanthropist Washington Duke greatly expanded upon his fathers’ success. His gamble to introduce machine-rolled versus hand-rolled cigarettes and use of extensive advertising campaigns led to rapid expansion of the W. Duke, Sons and Company. Duke then helped form a combination of large cigarette manufactures into the American Tobacco Company in 1890, becoming president at the age of 33. In the following years the company gained control of most tobacco products in the country except cigars which led the federal government to launch antitrust actions in 1907. A Supreme Court decision in 1911 ultimately led to the company’s breakup.

    Prior to the breakup of American Tobacco James and his brother Benjamin with partner George Watts had launched the Southern Power Company (now Duke Energy Company) with headquarters in Charlotte. They poured their resources into the hydroelectric industry that played a key role in the industrialization of the Piedmont region of North Carolina and South Carolina in the early parts of the 20th century. With the dissolution of the American Tobacco Company, James ended his involvement with the tobacco industry, acquired a second home in Charlotte, and turned his interest towards the Southern Power Company and philanthropic causes.

    The Duke brothers, being lifelong Methodists, practiced the kind of financial stewardship encouraged by the church. Their philanthropic efforts were led by Benjamin until 1915 when declining health led to James becoming more involved. James then became more directly engaged with support for Trinity College in Durham and other Methodist Church causes. In 1924 he established the Duke Endowment with a donation of $40,000,000 for philanthropic purposes in North Carolina and South Carolina. It was specified that nearly a third of the annual income was to support Trinity College. The donation was intended to rebuild East Campus and build a new complex on West Campus. After this generous donation, the school changed its name to Duke University.

  • Location

    The statue is located on the Trail of History near Morehead Street and Kings Street. This statue is one of 21 existing or planned statues along the trail, the first of which was The Spirit of Mecklenburg.

  • Landscape

    The Trail of History near uptown Charlotte follows the Little Sugar Creek greenway. The greenway runs four miles along the small stream lined with trees, shrubbery, flowering plants and places for seating.

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