History Groves - Dr. Robert Durden
Born in Georgia, Robert Franklin Durden became a distinguished historian, educator, and writer, specializing in the Civil War and Reconstruction. His undergraduate years at Emory University were interrupted by service in the Navy during World War II. After 1945, he was a Japanese translator at the Minor War Trials in the Pacific and Japan.
Bob received his PhD in 1952 from Princeton and then drove to Durham with his new bride, Anne Oller, to take up his job at Duke, where he was a professor of history until 2001. He received Duke’s highest honor, The University Medal, upon his retirement. Bob was a prolific author. Of particular interest to students of Durham history are his books on the Duke family and on the transformation of Trinity College into Duke University: The Dukes of Durham and The Launching of Duke University.
In 1958 Bob and Anne built their house on Wrightwood Avenue, a street opened up by Duke University for faculty homes. They lived there for 40 years, raising their daughters and creating a beautiful azalea garden. The girls fondly remember walking through Wrightwood Park to Lakewood Shopping Center and the iconic Davis Bakery. Bob enjoyed sharing his family, his home and his many stories with friends and neighbors. Guests were always made welcome by Bob’s warm smile and gracious manner.