John B. Duncan papers
Collection Scope and Content
This collection contains photographs, speeches, awards, correspondence, medical records, articles, scrapbooks, memorabilia, and reference files. The material dates from 1932-89, although the bulk of the material dates from 1960-77. The material relates both to Duncan's personal life and to his professional career. There are many subjects within the reference files that represent topics of interest to Duncan while he was in office. These subjects include: legalized gambling, National Capital Downtown Committee, and minority integration into Boards in D.C. The speeches included in the collection are both speeches given by Duncan and also speeches he attended given by such people as Lyndon B. Johnson, Ralph Bunche, Roy Wilkins, Harle Selassie, A. Philip Randolph, and Patrick Cardinal O'Boyle. The scrapbooks in the collection span sixty years and begin with Duncan's early years in North Carolina and continuing until 1989.
- Duncan, John Bonner (Person)
Restrictions on Access
Some records may be restricted.
Restrictions on Use
Some material may be copyrighted or restricted. It is the patron's obligation to determine and satisfy copyright or other case restrictions when publishing or otherwise distributing materials found in the collections.
In 1952, after twenty-eight years of service in city government, John Bonner Duncan (1910-1994) was appointed recorder of deeds for the District of Columbia. He served in this capacity until 1961, at which time President John F. Kennedy appointed him the first African-American commissioner of the District of Columbia. President Lyndon B. Johnson re-appointed him to this position in 1964. As a member of the city's last three-man board of commissioners, in 1967 Duncan advocated for the reinstatement of the city's present mayor-commission system.
In November 1967, Duncan was appointed assistant to the secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior for Urban Relations. He retired from the government in 1969 and began a twenty-year career as a consultant in housing development, equal opportunity and public affairs groups.
He was active in nearly eighty civic organizations in the District of Columbia for forty years, including private and public agencies, which supported education, health, recreation, welfare, youth groups, human relations art and sciences. He was a supporter of religious organizations, civil rights groups and numerous service organizations.
John B. Duncan was born in Springfield, Kentucky in 1910. He received his bachelor of arts degree from Howard University, and graduated from Terrell Law School in 1938. He was a member of the Maryland Bar and an associate member of the Washington Bar Association. He served as an attorney and senior attorney for several federal agencies. Duncan married Edith West in 1938. They had two children, John Jr. and Joan. After the death of his first wife in 1966, Duncan married B. Delores Berry in 1969. Duncan passed away at his home in Alexandria, Virginia in 1994.
21 Linear Feet
Language of Materials
In 1952, after twenty-eight years of service in city government, John Bonner Duncan (1910-1994) was appointed recorder of deeds for the District of Columbia. He served in this capacity until 1961, at which time President John F. Kennedy appointed him the first African-American commissioner of the District of Columbia. Collection contains photographs, speeches, awards, correspondence, medical records, articles, scrapbooks, memorabilia, and reference files. The material dates from 1932-89, although the bulk of the material dates from 1960-77. The material relates both to Duncan's personal life and to his professional career.
Organized into nine series: Photographs, Speeches, Correspondence, Honors and awards, Reference files, Personal files, Scrapbooks, Clippings, and Memorabilia.
John Duncan donated this collection to Gelman Library in 1991. Additional materials were donated by Duncan and Duncan's family in 1992, 1993, and 1994.
Reparative Description Projects
This finding aid was revised in 2022 to address harmful descriptive language. During that revision staff edited the aggrandizing description in the Scope and Contents note of Series 1. To see the Processing information note that discusses the revision use Photographs, 1960-1968 . To see the description prior to revisions, please view the previous version of the John B. Duncan papers finding aid.
In a separate project in September 2022, this finding aid was further revised to address derogatory descriptive language for disability terminology identified in a numerous folder titles. During that revision, description was not edited or removed, but additional information was provided to add context. The Historic Context note for the archival objects explain the revision. To view the finding aid prior to this revision work please use Pre-revision August 2022 finding aid of the John B. Duncan papers
- African American politicians Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Bunche, Ralph J. (Ralph Johnson)
- District of Columbia . Office of the Recorder of Deeds
- Duncan, John Bonner
- Equal opportunity in employment Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Gambling Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Home rule Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines)
- Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald)
- National Capital Downtown Committee (Washington, D.C.)
- O’Boyle, Patrick
- Photographs Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Randolph, A. Philip (Asa Philip)
- Scrapbooks Subject Source: Art & Architecture Thesaurus
- Washington (D.C.) Subject Source: Library of Congress Subject Headings
- Wilkins, Roy
- Guide to the John B. Duncan papers, 1932-1989
- Special Collections Research Center, The George Washington University
- Description rules
- Describing Archives: A Content Standard
- Language of description
- Script of description
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English