Richard Thomas Walker Duke Jr.

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Richard T. W. Duke, Jr.
Duke, Richard T. W. Jr..JPG
R. T. W. Duke, Jr., c. 1904

Board of Aldermen, First Ward
Term Start September 1, 1904
Term End August 31, 1906

Biographical Information

Date of birth August 27, 1853
Date of death March 8, 1926
Place of birth Charlottesville, VA
Place of death Charlottesville, VA
Spouse Edith Ridgeway Slaughter
Children 5

Richard Thomas Walker Duke Jr. (August 27, 1853 – March 8, 1926), often referred to as “Judge DukeTom or RTW Duke Jr., was a prominent Albemarle County, Virginia, jurist, civic leader and prolific writer of local historical events. He the commonwealth's attorney for Albemarle County, holding that office from 1911 until his death in 1926. He was elected to Charlottesville's city council for several years early in the 20th century. [1] Son of Richard Thomas Walker Duke Sr., a Virginia politician and lawyer who served on Charlottesville's Board of Alderman under the first charter, granted by the Legislature in 1851.

Between 1899 and 1926, Richard Thomas Walker Duke Jr., recorded the most memorable events of his life in five, leather-bound volumes for the benefit of his children. The Albert and Shirley Small Special Collections Library hosts a website containing digital images of these Recollections, as well as digital reproductions of his Diaries and contextual information on Duke’s family, his interests, and the places important to him.

Early life and career

Richard Thomas Walker ("Tom") Duke, Jr. was born in Charlottesville on August 27, 1853. Tom was eleven years old in 1865 when the Civil War ended. His father was Col. Richard Thomas Walker Duke (1822–1898) and his mother, before marriage, was Miss Elizabeth Scott Eskridge (1820–1896). His ancestor, Dr. Thomas Walker, of “Castle Hill,” had been the guardian of Thomas Jefferson. Another ancestor, George Eskridge, was guardian of George Washington’s mother.

After completing preparatory training at the school of Major Horace W. Jones in Charlottesville, Tom entered the University of Virginia. At the age of 20 he began studying at the University’s Law School under the tutelage of John B. Minor and in 1875 he began practicing law in Charlottesville.

Marriage and family

Tom was twice married. His first wife was Miss Edith Ridgeway Slaughter (1863-1921) (m. October 1, 1884), daughter of John F. Slaughter, of Lynchburg, by whom he had five children: Mary, Richard Thomas Walker III, J. F. Slaughter, William E., and Helen R. Duke. His second wife, who survived him, was Mary “Maymee” Richardson Slaughter (1870-1959), the widow of his first wife’s brother, Samuel Garland Slaughter.

Legal career

Tom followed his father into the law and served on both sides of the bar. He began his study of law during his last two years at the University of Virginia (1872-1874) and completed his training in his father’s office, which he joined in 1875. His father had practiced alone from 1850-1858, in which year he added James D. Jones as a partner and built new law offices. Jones had retired and been replaced by Louis G. Hanckel and Stephen V. Southall by the early 1870s, before Tom’s arrival. When Tom’s older brother, William, joined his father and sibling c. 1883, R. T. W. Duke, Sr. changed the firm’s name to Duke & Duke.

Soon thereafter, The Judge maintained his connection with the family firm and resumed work full time upon his retirement from the Court in 1901. Civic duties continued to impede upon his time in the office, and he edited the Virginia Law Journal from 1907 to 1910. He further divided his time from 1916-1920, when he served as Commonwealth’s Attorney.

Virginia Politics

Like his father and older brother, William R. Duke, R. T. W. Duke, Jr. was an active participant in the Commonwealth’s Democratic Party. R. T. W. Duke, Sr. served during Tom’s childhood as the representative of Virginia’s fifth Congressional district, for the then “Conservative” Party.[2]

but he served from 1886 to 1901 as judge of the Corporation Court (now called the Circuit Court), as Commonwealth’s Attorney from 1916 to 1920, and as a member of the Committee to Revise the Virginia Code in 1908. Despite repeated rumors that Duke was interested in running for the governorship or for Congress, which became particularly heated in 1922, he did not, like his father or brother, ever follow through. He was, however, extremely active in assisting other Democrats in Federal races. He criss-crossed the state delivering scathing and enthusiastic speeches on the dangers of “Mahoneism” and “Black Republicans.”

Elected offices

Corporation Court - City of Charlottesville

Tom Duke was elected to the Corporation Court (now the Circuit Court), where he sat from 1888-1901 and earned his enduring epithet, “Judge Duke.”[3]

From 1888 until 1901, “Judge” Duke, Jr. served as Judge of the Corporate Court (later the circuit court) of Charlottesville. On March 3, 1888, a day after incorporating Charlottesville as a city, the General Assembly elected Duke as Charlottesville's first corporation court judge. He took the oath of office for the first of two consecutive six-year terms on March 5th. Although Judge Duke won unanimous reelection in January 1894, he declined a third term and stepped down on January 1, 1901.

Notable judgements

In the 1889 Murder Trial of William Musco, alias “William T. Jordan", Judge Duke was the presiding court judge. The defendant was accused of murdering policeman G. T. Seals on December 31, 1888. According to The Richmond Planet, an African American newspaper founded in 1882, "Efforts were made to lynch him, but owning to the law abiding spirit of Charlottesville’s officials, backed by those of the state, it was not accomplished.”[4]

Commonwealth's attorney for Albemarle County

Tom served as Commonwealth’s Attorney

On March 17, 1911, he was appointed commonwealth's attorney for Albemarle County, following the death of the longtime incumbent. Elected to a full six-year term later that year, Duke won re-election in 1917 and 1923. He held this office until his death in 1926.

Charlottesville City Council



Judge Duke’s fatal illness extended over a period of nearly six weeks. He was first stricken with pneumonia, which later developed into double pneumonia. The end came at 7:40 o’clock the evening of March 8, 1926 at his home on Park Street at the age of 72. The funeral was held at 3 o’clock the afternoon of March 10th from the residence, 616 Park Street. The interment took place in the family section in Maplewood Cemetery.


Jack Jouett's Ride (1908) [5]

Recollections, the five-volume, unpublished memoir of R. T. W. Duke Jr., (1899)


He is a member of the Virginia Historical Society, Deputy Governor of the Society of Colonial Wars, the Sons of the Revolution, and of the Phi Beta Kappa Society of William and Mary College. He has been the presiding officer of the Grand Chapter of the Zeta Psi Fraternity of North America. He took a prominent part in the exercises of the Masonic Order in the country, serving for two terms as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Virginia (December 1897 through December 1899).

Legacy and honors


  2. Web. [1], retrieved 3 September 2023.
  3. Web. [2], retrieved 3 September 2023.
  4. Web. [3]
  5. The Fargo forum and daily republican., October 03, 1908