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Duncan honored for work as Fourth Circuit Court judge
Published Thursday, March 7, 2019
by Freda Freeman, Correspondent

DURHAM – Judge Allyson Duncan, who recently announced her plans to retire from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, was honored by the Durham City Council on Monday. The council issued a proclamation for Duncan’s achievements at the local, state, national and international levels.

Introducing Duncan, Eddie Davis, public historian for Durham's Sesquicentennial, said that although Duncan serves at the judicial level, she has never forgotten her Durham roots.

“She has done outstanding work. We are very proud to have someone who is our own who has risen to such ranks and who will continue to do great things on the national and international level,” he said.

Duncan’s parents worked at North Carolina Central University, and she spent most of her time there while growing up. A Hillside High School alumnae, Duncan graduated from Hampton University in 1972 and Duke University School of Law in 1975.

She was a lawyer for the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission from 1978 to 1986. She returned to Durham in 1987 and taught at NCCU School of Law.

In 1990, Duncan became the first African-American woman to serve on the N.C. Court of Appeals. In 2003, she was elected the first black president of the North Carolina Bar Association.

The late President George W. Bush nominated Duncan to serve on the second highest level of courts in the nation in 2003.

She was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate, 93-0, becoming the first black woman to sit on the Fourth Circuit bench.

Duncan also served as the president of the Federal Judges Association and was appointed by Chief Justice John Roberts to chair the International Judicial Relations Committee of the FJA. Currently, she’s the vice president of the International Association of Judges.

Having traveled around the world, Duncan said she has seen people living in circumstances that make her both humble and grateful for what she has – particularly her Durham roots.

“What I’m most proud of I think is my roots here in this wonderful, rich, vibrant community that I see reflected before me in the faces of the Girl Scouts, in the leadership that you have assembled, and all of the people here tonight to participate in the democratic process. I am honored and humbled and more grateful than I can say for this honor you have bestowed on me,” she said.

Looking back on her expansive career, Duncan said she’s proud to be a role model for others to follow.

“I’m the most proud to be able to use what I’ve learned and gained to help a generation of people coming behind me,” she said. “I’m the first of a lot of things, but I look behind me and there are such beautiful, talented, young African American women and men coming along, and I’ve helped a lot of them. And that means more to me than anything because what is the point of succeeding if it ends with you?”

Duncan, who plans to retire when her replacement is confirmed, said she’s not sure what her plans are yet.

Having worked since she was about 15, she said she’s going to see if she can actually relax and work in her garden.



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