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Southern Cultures 12.2 (2006) 6-29



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The Duke

Amongst other herbs, he should cut up that weed of covetousness by the roots, that there be no remainder left; and then know this for a certainty, that together with their bodies thou mayest quickly cure all the diseases of their minds.
—Hippocrates to the herbalist, Crateva

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Figure 1
Buck Duke passed very comfortably into legend, and after he died he was called "master" and "titan" by his hagiographers. Today, while platoons of post-pubescents paint their faces blue and scrawl Buck's name across their chests at basketball games, we are left to wonder, "Who the hell was James Albert Bonsack?" Photograph courtesy of Duke University Photography.
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Figure 2
The monument to James Buchanan "Buck" Duke stands in front of the English Gothic chapel that Buck himself laid out at the center of the university he built and which bears his name. In his left hand he's burning a cigar, although by rights he should be holding a cigarette, the poor man's accessory, which he manufactured by the billions. Photograph courtesy of the North Carolina Collection in Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The copyright holder has denied the Publisher permission to post this image online.

The monument to James Buchanan "Buck" Duke stands in front of the English Gothic chapel that Buck himself laid out at the center of the university he built and which bears his name. The tower of the chapel is 210-feet high and the nave seats 1,470 people. It is like no other church anywhere in North Carolina tobacco country. Buck's statue stands erect, fingers on a cane, all six buttons of his waistcoat buttoned and tight against his paunch. In his left hand he's burning a cigar, although by rights he should be holding a cigarette, the poor man's accessory, which he manufactured by the billions.

There's a memorial chapel to the left of the chancel of the main chapel, and in this smaller chapel rest the sarcophagi of Buck, his brother Ben, and his father, Washington "Wash" Duke. Each of them lies head to toe, carved in glowing white marble and covered in stony drapes like three home-grown Caesars. Buck looks a little like Augustus, thin and angular, nothing like the triumphant gargantua holding his cigar just a hundred yards away; a sarcophagus and the finest marble cannot hide the transformations of old age and death. [End Page 7]

Figure 3
There's a memorial chapel to the left of the chancel of the main chapel, and in this smaller chapel rest the sarcophagi of Buck, his brother Ben, and his father, Washington "Wash" Duke. Each of them lies head to toe, carved in glowing white marble and covered in stony drapes like three home-grown Caesars. Buck looks a little like Augustus, thin and angular, nothing like the triumphant Gargantua holding his cigar just a hundred yards away. Inside the main chapel, courtesy of the North Carolina Collection in Wilson Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The copyright holder has denied the Publisher permission to post this image online.
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It's three miles to the sarcophagi from the old Duke homestead. Instead of a statue, at the homestead there's a rickety, animatronic tobacco farmer priming his soil. There is also a 250-pound replica of the Liberty Bell constructed of pressed tobacco leaves, a twin of the tobacco bell given by the R. J. Reynolds Company to the Smithsonian on the occasion of our nation's two hundredth birthday. There is enough tobacco in the bell to make enough cigarettes to smoke a pack a day for twenty years. These creations—the farmer and the bell—do not betray anything approaching the ambition contained in Duke Chapel, although they're pretty clever. The homestead is very modest, and yet it is preserved along with Buck's statue, his church, his university, and his marble. It's the relic...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 6-29
Launched on MUSE
2006-05-10
Open Access
No

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