DUKE, ALAN ROBERT
DUKE, ALAN ROBERT (1919–1998). Alan Robert Duke, chemical engineer, athlete, avocational archeologist, and a founder and charter member of the Houston Archeological Society, son of Henry and Edna (Stiles) Duke, was born on January 15, 1919, in Glenside, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. His father, a mechanical engineer, lived in Philadelphia and worked in New York City. Duke attended Abington High School, excelling in academics and football. He graduated from high school at the age of sixteen in 1935. He then received a football scholarship to Chestnut Hill Academy in Philadelphia which he attended for one year. In 1936 he was offered academic and athletic scholarships to Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania. He accepted the football and track scholarship as it provided more money. Duke played quarterback, halfback, and defensive back, playing on offense and defense. Duke graduated in 1940 near the top of his class with a B.S. in Chemistry and received the academic key for having the highest GPR in athletics. He was also a member of Who's Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges and was voted best all-around student at Albright College.
After graduation, Duke obtained a job with the Penn Salt Company. Six weeks later he was offered a chemical engineering position with DuPont de Nemours, Inc. in Philadelphia. There he supervised the production of chemicals essential to the war effort during World War II. In 1941 Duke met and married his wife of fifty-seven years, Ruth H. Else, a secretary, who was born in La Mott, Pennsylvania, home of Lucretia Mott. Duke and his wife had two sons, Bruce and Gary.
In 1947 Duke was transferred to the Houston area by DuPont to help supervise the construction of DuPont's present La Porte, Texas, plant on Brinson Point. He remained at the La Porte plant in management until his retirement in 1980. He had a reputation for being a supervisor's supervisor and super salesman. He belonged to the American Chemical Society and the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.
Duke quickly adjusted to Southeast Texas. He liked the lay of the land, the warm weather, and Texas history and prehistory. In 1959, along with several other avocational archeologists, Duke founded the Houston Archeological Society. He stayed in the Houston area (Pasadena) and developed and guided the HAS longer than any of the original founders. Duke participated in considerable field work with the HAS which included projects in Liberty County, Austin County, Harris County, and Galveston County. He was also a key member of the Lake Livingston Reservoir salvage archeology team. As he said later, "not much was known about the prehistory of the upper Gulf Coast in the 1950s."
Duke became chairman (now called president) of the Houston Archeological Society in 1961–62 and again in 1964–65. During his first term, he handled the Jamaica Beach fiasco in Galveston. In 1965 he also became editor of the HAS newsletter, later renamed the Journal of the Houston Archeological Society and kept that position until 1986. In addition, he was on the HAS board of directors for many years. He authored over forty journal articles. Duke maintained longtime memberships not only with the HAS, but also with the Texas Archeological Society and the South Texas Archeological Society.
In 1975 Duke was named a life member of the HAS for his service. He was honored with a special HAS award in 1986 for his work as journal editor, and received the Southeast Texas Archeological Research Award in 1991 for regional archeological research on several topics, including pottery and Texas banner stones.
Duke served on the HAS Awards Committee from its inception in 1989. Even after his health began to decline, he made a concerted effort to attend the annual awards presentation meetings. He continued to research and write archeological articles through 1992.
Perhaps Duke's contributions to archeology were best summarized by fellow charter and life member Donald R. Lewis, who passed away in 1997, "Above all, Alan Duke has been dedicated to the task of the documentation and communication of information which he and other members of the Society have garnered." Duke died on May 20, 1998, in Pasadena, Texas, due to complications resulting from diabetes.
Houston Archeological Society letters and journals. Houston Chronicle, May 21, 1998.
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Bruce R. Duke, "Duke, Alan Robert," accessed February 19, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fdu64.
Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on February 2, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.