Guide to the Allyson K. Duncan Papers, 1914-2015


Allyson Kay Duncan is a U.S. Circuit Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. She is the Fourth Circuit's first female African American judge. This collection consists largely of personal and professional correspondence from Duncan's nomination, induction, and service on the Fourth Circuit, with letters from family, friends, and colleagues across the legal profession. The bulk of the collection dates from the 2000s, but includes some assorted materials from her work as an attorney for Kilpatrick Stockton and the NC Utilities Commission in the 1990s.

Collection Details

Collection Number
Allyson K. Duncan Papers
Duncan, Allyson K.
2.5 Linear Feet
David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Materials in English

Collection Overview

Collection consists of Duncan's correspondence, including both personal and professional communications with family, friends, and colleagues, including other judges such as Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Diane Wood, J. Harvie Wilkinson III, William Traxler Jr., and several others; press clippings and articles about Duncan's activities as president for the NC Bar Association and her appointment to and service on the U.S. Court of Appeals (4th Circuit); copies of speeches and programs from her various professional activities for Duke Law School and NC Central Law School, among other appearances; assorted materials from her work for the NC Utilities Commission and Kilpatrick Stockton law firm; her diplomas and awards; some family history materials from her parents and other relatives, including her aunt Helen Blackburn and uncle Armour Blackburn; and assorted photographs, largely unlabelled. Collection acquired as part of the John Hope Franklin Research Center for African and African American History and Culture.

More Biographical / Historical Info

Using These Materials

A majority of collections are stored off site and must be requested at least 2 full business days in advance for retrieval. Contact Rubenstein Library staff before visiting. Read More »

warning Access to the Collection

Access restricted: Donor must be contacted for use permission prior to accessing the collection. Access will be unrestricted upon the death of the donor. Contact Research Services to request permission to access this collection.

warning Use & Permissions

The copyright interests in this collection have not been transferred to Duke University. For more information, consult the copyright section of the Regulations and Procedures of the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library.

More copyright and citation information

How to Cite

[Identification of item], Allyson K. Duncan Papers, David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Duke University.

Contents of the Collection

Correspondence, 2003-2015
(12 folders)

Personal and professional correspondence saved by Duncan, documenting her communications with friends and family; her law clerks and other chamber staff; other judges, including Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Diane Wood, J. Harvie Wilkinson III, William Traxler Jr., and several others. Much of the correspondence documents Duncan's personal activities, including gifts, special occasions, and hobbies. There are also letters congratulating her on various speeches, awards, and appointments. Separate folders contain letters celebrating her NC Bar Association election and her appointment to the Fourth Circuit.

Box 1
Biographies, resumes, and headshots, 1999-2003
Box 1
North Carolina Utilities Commission, 1991-1996

Includes testimony transcripts; an article about Duncan as Utilities Commissioner written during the Clarence Thomas/Anita Hill investigation; a copy of her appointment; and a celebratory Black History Month publication.

Box 1
Kilpatrick Stockton law firm, 1998-2003
Box 1
North Carolina Bar Association election and service as president, 2002-2004

Press articles and coverage of Duncan's election and term as first African American president of the NCBA.

Box 1
United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit) nomination and investiture, 2003
(2 folders)

Press coverage, editorials, and other materials supporting Duncan's nomination, hearing, and investiture to the Fourth Circuit.

Box 1
United States Court of Appeals (4th Circuit) service and press coverage, 2005-2012

News coverage about Fourth Circuit activities and rulings, some quote Duncan.

Box 1
Congratulatory letters celebrating Duncan's NCBA presidency and nomination to the Fourth Circuit, 2002-2003
(2 folders)
Box 1
Damon J. Keith subject file, 2004-2009
Box 1
Hampton University subject file, 1990-2014
Box 1
Duke Law School subject file, 1975-2014
Box 1
Duncan, A. "The Richmond Decision: What the Supreme Court Did NOT Say," Trumpet newsletter, 1989 Spring
Box 1
Duncan, A. "Diversity Revisited and the Wisdom of Crowds," NC State Bar Journal article, 2010 Spring
Box 1
Profiles and press coverage re: Duncan, 1980s-1990s
Box 1
Programs and events, 2003-2014
(7 folders)

Programs, pamphlets, and other materials collected by Duncan documentating her participation in various public events, including speeches and ceremonies. Files also contain invitations, logistical arrangements, and some drafts of her remarks as the invited speaker.

Box 2
Photographs of Duncan with other judges, including Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Clarence Thomas, 2000s
Box 2
Personal photographs of Duncan and other family members, 1950s-2000s
Box 2
Robert and Anne Duncan legal deeds, photocopied documents, 1914-1952
Box 2
Armour and Helen Blackburn memorials and tributes, 1948-2011

Includes Armour Blackburn's 1948 diploma from Columbia University.

Box 2
Allyson Duncan awards, diplomas, commissions, and appointments, 1975-2002
(2 folders)

Includes Duncan's Duke Law School diploma, her appointment to the N.C. Court of Appeals (1990), her appointment to the Board of Public Telecommunications Commissioners, and her admission as an attorney to the U.S. Court of Appeals (4th Circuit), the NC State Bar, the North Carolina Eastern District Court, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Box 3

Historical Note

Allyson Kay Duncan (b. 1951) was born in Durham and attended Hampton University (BA, 1972) and Duke University (JD, 1975). She worked for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (1978-1986) and was a professor at NC Central School of Law (1986-1990) before being appointed by Gov. James Martin as Associate Judge to the North Carolina Court of Appeals in 1990. After losing the next election, she was appointed to the North Carolina Utilities Commission in 1991, where she worked until joining the Kilpatrick Stockton firm in 1998. In 2003 she was elected as the first African American president of the North Carolina Bar Association, and was also nominated by President George W. Bush to fill a vacancy on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. She was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in July 2003 and inducted to the court in August 2003, where she continues to serve (as of 2018). Duncan was the first African American woman to join the Fourth Circuit.

Click to find related materials at Duke University Libraries.


The Allyson K. Duncan Papers were received by the David M. Rubenstein Rare Book & Manuscript Library as a gift in 2018.

Processing Information

Processed by Meghan Lyon, July 2018.

Accessions described in this collection guide: 2018-0013