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W. Fred Duckworth Papers

Collection ID: MG 45

Scope and Contents

The collection consists of documents, artifacts, newspaper clippings, photos, and scrapbooks documenting the activities of W. Fred Duckworth in politics, as a businessman, and as a civic leader. Of particular note are the documents related to Duckworth's role in the desegregation of Norfolk Public Schools in the 1950s and 1960s.


  • circa 1908-1979, undated
  • Other: Date acquired: 05/07/1980



22.20 Linear Feet

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Before publishing quotations or excerpts from any materials, permission must be obtained from Special Collections and University Archives, and the holder of the copyright, if not Old Dominion University Libraries.

Biographical or Historical Information

William Fred Duckworth was born June 20, 1899 in Brevard, North Carolina. He graduated from Kernersville High School in Kernersville, North Carolina, and attended Davidson College in Davidson, North Carolina. He served in the Infantry during World War I. Duckworth married Gertrude Summers, a native of Statesville, North Carolina. Together they had one daughter, Betty. Mr. Duckworth's first employment was with the Ford Motor Company Assembly Plant in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1920. In 1931, he was promoted to manager of the plant. Then in 1933, he transferred to the Memphis Tennessee Plant. In 1936, Duckworth moved to Norfolk, Virginia to manage the Norfolk Plant. He worked for the Ford Motor Company until 1942. Mr. Duckworth served his country again from 1942 to 1944, as Regional Director of the War Production Board in Cleveland, Ohio. After this he became an independent businessman, founding the Cavalier Motor Company in Norfolk, Virginia. He served as President of the company until 1959. After that, he continued to serve as Chairman of the Board. In 1950, running on the coalition ticket, Duckworth was elected as mayor of Norfolk. He served in this position for twelve years, as Norfolk's longest running mayor. He finally declined re-election in 1962. Among his accomplishments as mayor of Norfolk include slum clearance, an industrial park, the Norfolk bridges and tunnels, and the General Douglas MacArthur Memorial in Norfolk's old Court House. On March 4, 1972, William Fred Duckworth was shot and killed while taking his regular nightly walk near his Norfolk apartment. No one was ever charged with the crime.

Note written by Special Collections Staff

Language of Materials



Mayor of Norfolk (1950-1962). Collection consists of memorabilia, photographs, scrapbooks, newspaper clippings, and artifacts relating to his political, business and civic activities.

Arrangement Note

The collection is organized into four series: Series I: Papers; Series II: Memorabilia; Series III: Oversize Photographs and Certificates; and Series IV: Oversize Albums and Scrapbooks.

Source of Acquisition

Betty Duckworth Farrand

Method of Acquisition

Gift. Accession #A80-23

Related Materials

Paul T. Schweitzer Papers (MG 16); Forrest P. White Papers (MG 5).

A Guide to the W. Fred Duckworth Papers
Special Collections and University Archives Staff
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the ODU Community Collections Repository

3000 Perry Library
4427 Hampton Blvd.
Norfolk VA 23529 US