November 2012 - Jones Day has reported the passing of retired partner Judge Robert M. Duncan, 85, on November 2. Judge Duncan grew up in segregated 1940s Urbana, Ohio, and became the first person in his family to graduate from college. He attended The Ohio State University, where he was elected class president and went on to graduate from the university’s law school.
In 1966, Bob Duncan became a judge on the Franklin County Municipal Court, making him the first African-American elected to judicial office. In 1969, he was appointed and subsequently elected to the Supreme Court of Ohio, where he was both the first African-American justice to serve on that court and the first African-American to be elected in any statewide election in Ohio. In 1971, he became the first African-American member of the U.S. Court of Military Appeals, where he later served as chief judge. In 1974, he was appointed to the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio and during his 11-year tenure wrote the historic and courageous order ending segregation in Columbus public schools.
Bob Duncan joined Jones Day in 1985, where he would be instrumental in the development of the firm. In 1987, then managing partner Dick Pogue created a task force to focus on the hiring and retention of minorities and women, and Judge Duncan was its first chair. Judge Duncan was so highly esteemed by his Jones Day colleagues that they established the Robert M. Duncan/Jones Day Designated Professorship at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, which is funded by individual lawyer contributions.
Judge Duncan returned to his alma mater in 1992, when he was appointed vice president and general counsel of OSU. He later served nine years on its board of trustees.
Managing partner Stephen J. Brogan commented, “the Judge was a champion of what was good and fair. He was always modest about his accomplishments and credited any success to simple courteousness. He was a great influence on Jones Day lawyers and set the standard for our personal conduct toward one another. Judge Duncan's passing is a great loss for the firm, The Ohio State University and the City of Columbus, Ohio. He was a special and great man.”