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THE DUKE LEGACY
Duke Mansion isn’t the only historical site bearing the Duke name. James Buchanan Duke, born near Durham, North Carolina, in 1856, was a noted entrepreneur who is best known as a tobacco magnate, electric-power industrialist, and founder of Duke University.
Known by the nickname Buck, Duke moved to New York City at the age of 28 to open a branch of his family’s tobacco business, American Tobacco Company. Within five years, the company was supplying almost 50 percent of the American market with cigarettes. He was eventually promoted to president and continued working in the tobacco industry until the Supreme Court called for the dissolution of the tobacco company and its monopoly on the cigarette trade in 1911.
While Duke was running American Tobacco, his family was researching options for hydroelectric power to generate electricity for their textile manufacturing plants. The Duke family founded the Southern Power Company, now known as Duke Energy, in 1905.
Duke was a lifelong Methodist and Republican who gave to a number of causes. While living in the Duke Mansion, in 1924 he established the Duke Endowment as a permanent trust fund, focusing his philanthropic efforts on the areas served by the Southern Power Company. Duke also designated a portion of his annual income to be distributed to rural Methodist churches, educational institutions, nonprofit hospitals and child-care institutions for both blacks and whites in North Carolina. Duke’s generosity, coupled with his passion for education, led the trustees for a new university that was one of the prime beneficiaries of the Duke Endowment to be chartered as Duke University. The Duke Endowment has grown to become one of the largest foundations in the United States and has distributed more than $1 billion to its beneficiaries.
The Duke Mansion is the former home of Duke University founder James Buchanan Duke.
Duke died in 1925 and is buried at the Memorial Chapel on the campus of Duke University alongside his father and brother.
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