A Public Servant and Conservationist
Red Duke in his element.
Portrait by Andy Dearwater.
Dr. James “Red” Duke was a renowned trauma surgeon and an accomplished conservationist who was dedicated to helping people and sustaining populations of “big game” animals. Duke earned a Bachelor of Science from Texas A&M in 1950. He was an active student with broad interests that included serving as a yell leader for Aggie athletics. Duke followed his interests in community service by completing his medical degree from UT Southwest in 1960. During his residency at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital, Duke saved the life of Texas Gov. John Connally following the tragic assassination of President Kennedy in 1963.
Duke became well known through his nationally syndicated television program, “Dr. Duke’s Health Reports,” but his service to the public stretched far beyond medicine. Duke advocated for environmental conservation as a founding member of the Texas Bighorn Society, which was successful in re-establishing populations of Bighorn sheep in Texas. Dr. Duke continued to advocate for big game conservation as the president of the Boone and Crockett Club – the oldest conservation organization in North America.
The Boone and Crockett Club began an expansion of their endowment in the Texas A&M Foundation in 2017 to honor Dr. Duke. The Boone and Crockett Dr. James H. “Red” Duke Wildlife Conservation and Policy Program includes the joint-degree program between Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences and the Bush School of Government and Public Service. The Boone and Crockett program at Texas A&M combines science and policy to continue Red Duke’s Legacy of leadership in conservation. Read more.
Dr. James H. “Red” Duke and Wild Sheep
Wild sheep live in awe-inspiring mountains. Landscapes that help us recognize our place in the scheme of things–places that also support a wide variety of unique plants and animals. Sheep are robust to the extreme privations of these high places. The four North American sheep that comprise the “grand slam” reveal the subtle changes in color and form that reflect the isolation of life on these “sky islands” along the Continental Divide from the Alaskan arctic to the Mexican desert. However, sheep populations are easily lost. Sheep management requires balancing good science with good judgment about harvest, disease, predators, biodiversity and environmental change. “Red” Duke was enamored with sheep hunting. He knew that enormous skill and effort required to take the largest rams in a population matched the dedication and drive needed to sustain healthy populations of these animals. He did both – his first trophy on record with the Boone & Crockett Club was recorded in 1967; two decades later he led the Wild Sheep Foundation and the Boone & Crockett Club – organizations that promote policies to conserve wildlife, lands and their relationship with people. The logo for our program features the first sheep in Dr. Duke’s “grand slam”, the Rocky Mountain Big Horn.