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

    James B. Duke Statue, Duke University, Durham

  • Type


  • Subjects

    Historic Educational Figures

    Historic Philanthropic Figures

  • Creator

    Charles Keck, Sculptor

  • City


  • County


  • Description

    James Buchanan Duke is depicted as larger than life standing atop an octagonal plinth or pedestal of polished dark granite. He is shown holding a cigar in his left hand, possibly a reference to the fortune he earned in the tobacco industry, and the tilt of his cane suggests that he is in motion. The eight foot tall statue sits on a four inch thick base atop the plinth. The entire structure sits on a low, two tier octagonal granite base.

    Contemporary Image

  • Inscription

    Front: JAMES / BUCHANAN / DUKE / DECEMBER 23, 1856- / OCTOBER 10, 1925




    On statue, left leg: CHARLES KECK SC. 1935

  • Custodian

    Duke University

  • Dedication Date

    June 3, 1935

  • Decade


  • Geographic Coordinates

    36.001320 , -78.939030 View in Geobrowsemap pin

  • Supporting Sources

      "James Buchanan Duke (sculpture)," Art Inventories Catalog, Smithsonian American Art Museum, SIRIS,, SSSA5401, (accessed January 15, 2013) Link

      Bryan, John M. The Campus Guide: Duke University (New York, NY: Princeton Architectural Press, 2000), 25, (accessed January 15, 2013) Link

      Duke University Libraries. “Campus Statuary,” University Archives, (accessed January 15, 2013) Link

      Duke University Libraries. “James Buchanan Duke,” University Archives, (accessed January 15, 2013) Link

      Duke University Libraries. “The Duke Family and Duke University,” University Archives, (accessed January 15, 2013) Link

      The Duke Endowment. "About Us,", (accessed February 5, 2013) Link

      “647 Students Get Degrees In Final Exercises At Duke,” The Durham Morning Herald (Durham, NC), June 4, 1935, 2

      “Alien James B. Duke Statue,” Duke University Archives on Flickr, (accessed January 15, 2013) Link

      “Duke Commencement Exercies To Begin Today: More Than 600 Candidates To Receive Degrees Monday,” The Durham Morning Herald (Durham, NC), June 1, 1935

      “James B. Duke Statue, Duke University—Photos Then And Now,”, (accessed January 15, 2013) Link

      “Six Events Are Listed At Duke,” Durham Morning Herald (Durham, NC), June 3, 1935

  • Public Site


  • Materials & Techniques

    Bronze, Cape Anne granite

  • Sponsors

    Duke Memorial Association

  • Monument Dedication and Unveiling

    The unveiling occurred at 12:15 pm on the final day of a three day commencement celebration in 1935. The activities that day included a commencement address given by President Glenn Frank of the University of Wisconsin, an alumni luncheon, presentation and acceptance of the Duke Homestead, and graduation exercises. James A. Thomas, the chairman of the Duke Memorial Association, spoke of Duke’s generosity and love for his state and the city of Durham, and Mary Duke Biddle pulled the cord to reveal the statue. Several thousand people attended the ceremony and listened as Colonel John F. Bruton made an acceptance speech. President W. P. Few also participated in the ceremony.

  • Subject Notes

    James Buchanan Duke, the son of tobacco giant and philanthropist Washington Duke, established the Duke Endowment in 1924 with a donation of $40,000,000 to Trinity College. Like his father, James B. Duke earned his fortune in the tobacco industry, continuing in the family business after his father’s death. He also entered the power industry with his older brother. 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 sits in front of Duke Chapel on the West Campus of Duke University. It faces southeast into the quad and traffic circle.

  • Landscape

    The statue is situated in a grassy quad, just before the steps to Duke Chapel.

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