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Duke, James Buchanan

Duke, James Buchanan, 1856–1925, American industrialist, processor of tobacco products, b. near Durham, N.C. The Civil War left the Duke family poor, but James and his brother, Benjamin, helped their father in building up a local tobacco-processing business, which soon prospered. Development of cigarette-making machines and extensive advertising gave the Duke company a lead in tobacco manufacturing. Through a long series of mergers with competitors, James Duke organized (1890) and led a trust that, when dissolved by order of the Supreme Court in 1911, controlled 150 factories with a capitalization of $502 million. He left a trust fund to Trinity College that provided for the erection of buildings and facilities; the name of the college was changed to Duke Univ. He also gave large amounts for hospitals, orphanages, and churches.

His daughter, Doris Duke, 1912–1993, b. New York City, inherited the bulk of her father's estate when she was 12. One of the world's richest women, she devoted much of her fortune to philanthropy, including Duke Univ., animal rights, the environment, birth control, AIDS research, and colonial restoration. Her personal life was tumultuous and often unhappy, and she often fled the public eye to one of her several sumptuous homes, particularly Shangri-La in Honolulu, now a museum of Islamic art. Most of her estate went to the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

See biographies of James Duke by J. W. Jenkins (1927, repr. 1971) and J. K. Winkler (1942); S. Bingham, The Silver Swan: In Search of Doris Duke (2020).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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