On the sunny afternoon of June 4, James B. Duke became the newest addition to Charlotte’s Trail of History, honoring people who have played a key role in the community’s development.
Created by J. Brett Grill, the larger-than-life bronze figure was unveiled during a special ceremony. The Michigan artist was inspired by descriptions of Mr. Duke’s tireless work ethic and ambition, and those traits animate the sculpture.
“He strides forward, his coat billowing behind, as he moves into the world of change and possibility at the turn of the century,” says Grill, whose work includes a statue of President Gerald Ford at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. “A man of few words in public and avoiding publicity, his face remains determined and pensive.”
Running along Charlotte’s Little Sugar Creek Greenway, the Trail of History commemorates men and women from Mecklenburg County’s past. Some of the statues represent legendary trail-blazers, while others depict lesser-known figures in history, says Charles Jonas, chair of the Trail’s board.
Captain James Jack carried the Mecklenburg Declaration of Independence to the 1775 meeting of the Continental Congress. Thaddeus Tate was an African American businessman and civic leader. Jane Wilkes spearheaded the effort to build Charlotte’s first two civilian hospitals.
Other statues include William Henry Belk, Thomas Polk, Thomas Spratt and King Haigler. More will be added over the years.
Mr. Duke stands near the corner of Kings Road and Morehead Street. At the unveiling, speakers celebrated his work in business and philanthropy, and praised the kindred spirits that shaped this region.
“Like the other men and women represented on the Trail of History, Mr. Duke lived a life of purpose and meaning, and he worked hard on behalf of others,” said Minor Shaw, chair of The Duke Endowment’s Board of Trustees. “We are grateful for the opportunity to honor the lasting legacies of these inspirational people, and to learn from their rich stories.”