Congressman Duncan, Public Servant

By Ralphine Major

“May I help you?” I asked.

“Hello.  I’m Jim Duncan, Mr. Duncan’s son,” he said while extending his hand.

I was working that summer as an intern in the late Congressman John J. Duncan’s Knoxville office.  After classes ended for this college freshman, I walked from the University of Tennessee (UT) campus to the Federal Building on Main Street in downtown Knoxville.  In the fall, I became a full-time student again.  It was 1973, and I had just celebrated my nineteenth birthday.  Over Christmas break, I received a call.  I was amused that Jim Duncan and Zane Daniel were both on the line asking me to come and work in their law firm.

For a couple of years I was able to juggle school and work.  Jimmy often spoke to groups and would sometimes tell about the dogs our family had that were named Daniel & Duncan.  I was very active in our church and enjoyed being the organist.  Over time, I realized that I could not give both the job and school one hundred percent, and I did not want either to suffer.  Though I left the job, I took their friendship with me.  I kept in touch with Daniel & Duncan over the decades that followed.  I graduated college and took a job with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).  Jimmy sent me a copy of the reference letter he wrote for me, and I still treasure it.

I always thought Jimmy would follow his father into Congress.  After all, they had the same traits.  They worked hard; they were dedicated; and they had a deep concern and compassion for the constituents they represented.  Both of them were down to earth; they used common sense; and they were of high integrity and good character.

It seemed quite fitting that I reconnected with Linda DeMarcus Acuff at the Grainger County Tomato Festival this year on the eve of Jimmy’s announcement not to seek re-election.  Linda worked with me in the office at Daniel & Duncan.  I admire Jimmy’s decision.  He and his family have sacrificed much as he has served this district the last 30 years.  We are fortunate to have had him represent East Tennessee in Washington.  He has meant a lot to our family over the years.

I know Jimmy to be a great family man and a person of faith, and I am happy that he will have more time for his family and his church.  When Jimmy spoke at Zane’s memorial service many years ago, he closed with a verse from the Old Testament.  I often think of that moment whenever I hear the words from Micah 6:8 (NIV):  “And what does the Lord require of you?  To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”

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