Washington Duke Memorial Statue, Duke University, Durham
The figure of Washington Duke is represented wearing a suit and seated in an armchair. The sculpture sits on top of a three-tiered pedestal on an eight foot by ten foot square base, and all four sides of the pedestal are inscribed. The statue depicts Duke in a relaxed posture, representing an attitude of repose and meditation. The figure of a lion rests at the end of the right arm of the chair next to Duke's hand.
South face: WASHINGTON DUKE / 1820-1905 / ANIMATED BY LOFTY PRINCIPLES HE EVER CHERISHED THE / WELFARE OF HIS COUNTRY WITH THE ARDOR OF A TRUE / PATRIOT; DILIGENT IN BUSINESS HE ACQUIRED RICHES, BUT / IN THE ENJOYMENT OF THEM DID NOT FORGET TO SHARE / WITH THE LESS FORTUNATE; A PATRON OF LEARNING HE / FOSTERED AN INSTITUTION WHICH PLACED WITHIN THE REACH / OF ASPIRING YOUTH THE IMMORTAL GIFT OF KNOWLEDGE; AND / WHEN THE ACTIVITIES OF HIS EARLY LIFE AND THE STERNER / STRUGGLES OF HIS MATURER YEARS HAD PASSED HE ENTERED / UPON A SERENE OLD AGE CHEERED BY A LOWLY PIETY AND / SUSTAINED BY AN UNFAILING TRUST IN GOD, WHO IN ALL THE / VICISSITUDES OF LIFE HAD KEPT HIM SINGLE IN HIS AIMS, / SINCERE IN HIS FRIENDSHIPS AND TRUE TO HIMSELF.
North face: "FRIEND TO TRUTH! OF SOUL SINCERE, / IN ACTION FAITHFUL, AND IN HONOR CLEAR."
East face: PHILANTHROPIST
West face: PATRIOT
Base, east face: EDWARD V. VALENTINE FECIT / 1908 GORHAM CO. FOUNDERS
June 10, 1908
36.005050 , -78.914760 View in Geobrowse
"Washington Duke Memorial Statue, (sculpture)," Art Inventories Catalog, Smithsonian American Art Museum, SIRIS, sirismm.si.edu, IAS NC000241, (accessed January 17, 2013) Link
"Washington Duke papers, 1764-1987," David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University, (accessed May 12, 2023) Link
Bryan, John M. The Campus Guide: Duke University (New York, NY: Princeton Architectural Press, 2000), 68, (accessed January 17, 2013) Link
“Exercises at the Unveiling of the Washington Duke Memorial Statue and Biographical Sketch,” (Trinity Park, Durham, NC, 1908), (accessed January 17, 2013) Link
“The Duke Family and Duke University. A Chronology of Selected Events in the Duke Family's Relationship with Duke University,” David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University, (accessed January 15, 2023) Link
“The Life of Memorials: Manifestations of Memory at the Intersection of Public and Private,” Perkins Gallery, Duke University Libraries, (accessed January 15, 2023) Link
“To Memory of Washington Duke,” The News and Observer (Raleigh, NC), June 11, 1908, 1,4 Link
Bronze statue, Vermont granite base
Friends and colleagues of Washington Duke, organized by A. T. Ragland and T. J. Walker of Richmond, Virginia
On Wednesday June 10, 1908, after the commencement ceremony of Trinity College (the predecessor institution of Duke University), a gathering occurred for the unveiling of the Washington Duke Memorial Statue. The crowd included Trinity trustees, faculty, alumni, and students, as well as friends and family of Duke. The crowd formed a procession and marched to the site of the statue at the Anne Roney gardens. Dr. Edwin Mims read a poem by Mr. H. E. Spence to express the sentiment of the student body, while Mr. James H. Southgate made a speech on behalf of donors. He spoke of preserving Duke’s spirit as well as commemorating the heritage of the college and gave a brief biography of Duke’s life and career. Dr. John C. Kilgo, President of Trinity College at the time, made an acceptance speech on behalf of the school, thanking the committee and friends; he spoke of Duke’s hard but quiet work for the college. Finally, Duke’s great-granddaughter, Mary Washington Stagg, unveiled the statue. After the unveiling, the crowd gathered to view the statue, and many citizens reportedly felt that the monument appropriately honored Duke’s energy.
Washington Duke was born on December 20, 1820, into a modest family with an agrarian background. Though he opposed secession, he served in both the Confederate Army and Navy. After the war, he acquired his fortune in the tobacco manufacturing industry and came to be regarded as a benevolent philanthropist. His first donation to Trinity College, then in the town of Trinity in Randolph county, was given on the condition that the college relocate to Durham. Following the relocation, Duke made several more donations to the endowment fund, the first on the condition that women were to be admitted to the college. By 1904, Duke had donated approximately $480,000 to Trinity College. Though he made significant donations to other educational institutions, Washington Duke is best remembered for his generous donations to the University which now bears his name. Upon his death in 1905, friends of Duke started the successful movement to erect a memorial in his honor on Trinity’s campus.
[Additional information from NCpedia editors at the State Library of North Carolina: This person enslaved and owned other people. Many Black and African people, their descendants, and some others were enslaved in the United States until the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in 1865. It was common for wealthy landowners, entrepreneurs, politicians, institutions, and others to enslave people and use enslaved labor during this period. To read more about the enslavement and transportation of African people to North Carolina, visit https://aahc.nc.gov/programs/africa-carolina-0. To read more about slavery and its history in North Carolina, visit https://www.ncpedia.org/slavery. - Government and Heritage Library, 2023.]
The statue stands facing south in the median just before the traffic circle on Duke University's East Campus, off Main Street in Durham, NC. The traffic circle and the East Campus quad are behind the statue.
The statue stands in a grassy median, surrounded by a low manicured hedge. Mature trees and campus buildings are located on each side of the road.