Dr. James H. "Red" Duke Jr., physician, television personality, conservationist, hunter and past president of Boone and Crockett Club, died Tuesday, August 25. He was 86.
Duke, of Houston, Texas, served as President of Boone and Crockett Club from 1986-87, one of the many contributions made in a lifetime he said was devoted to "caring for people and critters." He also founded the Texas Bighorn Society, which lead to successful desert sheep restoration in Texas, and served as president of the Foundation for North American Wild Sheep (now the Wild Sheep Foundation) in 1986. As a hunter, Duke's fondness for mountain sheep and remote alpine highlands helped to inspire what is now his conservation legacy.
For his vast contributions to conservation and accomplishments as a sportsman, Duke received numerous awards, including the highest honors bestowed by the Boone and Crockett Club, The Sportsman's Club of Texas, Shikar Safari Foundation and Dallas Safari Club, which recently bestowed upon him the Peter Hathaway Capstick Hunting Heritage Award for exemplary leadership in conservation, education, hunting, humanitarian causes, research, permanent endowments and charitable giving.
"God created this unbelievably wonderful world in which we find ourselves and all the other creatures on it," Duke said in accepting the Peter Hathaway Capstick Hunting Heritage Award earlier this year. "We must learn to take care of it. It has a finite capacity to support reckless use. The land needs it and especially the wildlife, and if we don't take care of them, we're gonna run out of gas."
In addition to his conservation work and accomplishments in the field, Duke was a groundbreaking trauma surgeon who developed Life Flight, Texas' first air ambulance service, in 1976. His globally syndicated TV segments, "Dr. Duke's Health Reports," aired for more than 15 years and made him a household name as he explained complicated medical issues in understandable terms. He also hosted the PBS series "Bodywatch," which debuted in 1986.
As a surgical resident at Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas, Duke is credited with saving the life of former Texas Governor John Connally, who was wounded in the November 22, 1963 assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Duke was the first surgeon to receive the president at the hospital before he assumed the treatment of the governor.
"Sadly, there will never be another Red Duke. Red was a true pioneer, a visionary who always sought to give the same unrelenting care and attention to the natural world as he did his patients," Boone and Crockett Club President Morrie Stevens said. "He was brilliant, giving and embodied the spirit of a true conservationist. We grieve the loss of this extraordinary man, extend our sympathy to his family and give our sincerest thanks to him for his lifetime of tireless work in support of conservation and the preservation of our natural heritage."