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Samuel P. Duke Papers

Identifier: UA 0014
  • Not requestable

  • Staff Only

Scope and Content

The Samuel P. Duke Papers, 1921-1971, consist of 0.50 cubic feet of material, mostly containing correspondence between Duke and prospective employees (through telegrams and typed and handwritten letters), as well as current faculty, students, parents, one letter from First Lady Edith Wilson, and several other parties. The collection also includes files documenting the creation of a bachelor of arts degree, proposed curriculum, data and comparative documents, newspaper clippings concerning a B.A. degree, histories of the institution, a proposition to change the state teachers college into a liberal arts school, student disciplinary records, navy veteran cards, suggested policies and objectives, classification of students, post-grad salary statistics, registration information, thank you notes from a first grade class, library statistics, biographical information and publications by and on Duke, a field proposal, Madison College defense activities 1942-1943, and two photographs.

Two folders contain executive committee records from meetings that took place 1948-1949. The executive committee administered the college during Duke’s illness.

The collection also contains correspondence between G. Tyler Miller, a later president of JMU, and several persons concerning arguments over a bust of Samuel P. Duke that was eventually destroyed due to disputes over price. In addition, the folder contains a photograph of the bust and clippings of newspaper coverage.

All materials are in English with the exception of one letter written in Spanish (Box 1: Folder 10).


  • 1921-1971


Access Restrictions

Collection open to research. Researchers must register and agree to copyright and privacy laws before using this collection. Please contact Research Services staff before visiting the James Madison University Special Collections Library to use this collection.

Use Restrictions

Copyright for Official University records is held by James Madison University; all other copyright is retained by the authors of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law. For more information, contact the Special Collections Library Reference Desk (

Bio/Historical Note

Samuel P. Duke was born September 5, 1885 in Ferrum, Virginia to Rev. Thomas P. Duke and Jennie G. Duke. He graduated with a B.A. from Randolph-Macon College, his father’s alma mater, in 1906. He began teaching at Willie Halsell College in Vinita, Oklahoma and married his wife, Linnie Lucile Campbell, in 1908. They had four children together. Duke then returned to Virginia as a principal for a high school in Chase City, and relocated to Richmond in 1910 where he worked towards an M.A. from the Teachers College of Columbia University, which he obtained in 1913. He also received honorary LL.D. degrees from Hampden-Sydney College (1931) and Bridgewater College (1946).

After several years of experience in public schools throughout Virginia as well as serving as the head of the education department and director of the teachers training program at the State Normal School for Women at Farmville, Duke was appointed president of the State Normal School for Women at Harrisonburg by the Virginia Normal School Board in 1919.

During his time as president, Duke oversaw several changes at the school. He chaired a committee that recommended to the school board that state normal schools become teacher colleges with both 2 and 4-year degree options, and in 1924 the State Normal School for Women at Harrisonburg became the State Teachers College at Harrisonburg. In 1938 the institution was renamed Madison College, honoring James Madison on Duke’s recommendation, and in 1946, the administration started accepting male students as day students. After 30 years of service to the institution, Duke resigned his post in 1949 due to ill health and died at his Harrisonburg home in 1955.

James Madison University’s mascot, the duke dog, originated during Duke’s presidency by the first men’s basketball team in 1947, and became the university wide mascot in President Duke’s memory.


0.5 cubic feet (2 boxes)

Language of Materials



The Samuel P. Duke Papers, 1921-1971, comprise correspondence from, to, and concerning Madison College president Samuel P. Duke, as well as meeting minutes of the Executive Committee that served the college in his absence due to illness. Many documents relate to the change from the State Normal School for Women to the State Teachers College, and eventually, the change to Madison College.


Contents are arranged topically and chronologically within topic (when applicable).

Acquisition Information

Donna Bench transferred these items to Special Collections on October 26, 1999, as she was cleaning out old file cabinets in the President’s office.


  • “JMU Centennial Celebration - Dukes Nickname and the Duke Dog.” James Madison University, JMU Athletics, 26 July 2019, (Accessed September 2019).
  • “Samuel Page Duke.” Dictionary of Virginia Biography - Samuel Page Duke (5 September 1885-25 April 1955) Biography, Library of Virginia, (Accessed September 2019).
A Guide to the Samuel P. Duke Papers, 1921-1971
Lillie Jacob
September 2019
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2022-11: Interfiled correspondence addressed to and written by Duke regarding Madison College name change that was pulled from vertical file Name Change: Madison College.

Repository Details

Part of the James Madison University Libraries Special Collections Repository

820 Madison Drive
MSC 1706
Harrisonburg Virginia 22807
(540) 568-3612