Charles Andrew Tignor Duncan, 79, one of Washington, D.C.'s chief legal officers during the 1968 riots, and a former dean of Howard University School of Law, died May 4 at his home in Arundel on the Bay where he had lived since 1995. He had chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
Mr. Duncan was born Oct. 31, 1924, in Washington, D.C., the only child of Gladys Jackson Duncan of Washington, D.C., and the late Dr. Charles Tignor. He was a graduate of the Mount Herman Preparatory School for Boys in Massachusetts and a 1947 cum laude graduate of Dartmouth College, where he majored in political science and played varsity tennis. He graduated from Harvard Law School in 1950 and practiced law briefly in New York before becoming one of Washington's ranking African-American lawyers during the civil rights era. He served in the Naval Reserve during World War II from 1945 to 1946.
During his career, he sat on the D.C. Judicial Selection Commission, was a senior trustee for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and was affiliated with several law firms including Reeves, Robinson and Duncan; Epstein, Friedman, Duncan and Medalie; and Reid and Priest. During the 1960s, he was chief assistant to the U.S. Attorney for the District and then general counsel for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Starting in 1966, he spent four years as the District corporation counsel, the first African American to hold the job. He also was one of the closest advisers to Mayor Walter E. Washington when the city made a transition in 1967 from a three-person Board of Commissioners to a presidentially appointed mayor-council style of government. From 1974 to 1977 he was dean of Howard University School of Law, where he required law school applicants take what is now the Law School Admission Test. He also lectured there from 1954 to 1960.
More recently he was appointed to the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, where he served from 1994 to 2000. In 2002 he was recognized by the Senate of Maryland for his exemplary legal career spanning 50 years. He was on the board of directors for Proctor and Gamble, Eastman Kodak, Washington Urban League and the Columbia Hospital for Women and was a trustee of the Supreme Court Historical Society. He enjoyed sailing since 1980, once owning a sailboat called Deliberate Speed, in reference to the 1954 Brown vs. Board of Education decision by the Supreme Court.
In addition to his mother, surviving are his wife, Pamela Thurber Duncan, whom he married in 1996; a son, Charles Todd Duncan of St. Louis; and two grandchildren. He was the formerly married to Dorothy Thrasher Duncan, who died in 1972, and stepson of the late baritone Todd Duncan, who was the first African American to portray Porgy in George Gershwin's opera Porgy and Bess.
Memorial services will be held at 11 a.m. June 19 at the Howard University School of Law, 2900 Van Ness St. N.W, Washington, DC 20008. Burial is private. Arrangements are by McGuire Funeral Service, Washington, D.C.