Duke renames East Union Building in honor of George and George-Frank Wall

In an email to the Duke community Tuesday afternoon, President Vincent Price announced that the Duke Board of Trustees unanimously voted to name the East Union Building the George and George-Frank Wall Center for Student Life. 

The naming will honor the lasting impact of George Wall and his son George-Frank Wall made at Duke and the greater Durham community. 

“As we mark Duke’s Centennial, this naming is a timely and meaningful way to recognize the significant contributions these dedicated and long-serving staff members made to Duke University,” Price wrote.

A few years before George was born into slavery around 1854, Braxton Craven became the head of the newly established Trinity College. After George was emancipated, Craven hired him as a servant, and shortly after, he began working for the college as a custodian. 

George was a custodian at Trinity College for 60 years until his death in 1930, following the college when it was relocated to Durham in 1892. Throughout his employment at Duke, George formed close relationships with many students and other members of the community.

George’s eldest son, George-Frank, also worked at Duke as a custodian for over half a century. Price’s email read that George-Frank earned the nickname “Sheriff of the Dining Halls” from the university community for his “conscientious approach to his work,” and worked at Duke up until his death in 1953.

Upon arriving in Durham, George established his presence beyond Duke’s gates. He bought land on Third Street, now known as Onslow Street, where he was recognized as a leader in his community. Around the 1920s, George’s neighborhood was renamed Walltown in honor of his legacy.

“The Walls’ impacts on the university are complemented by their contributions to shaping Durham, which endure through the Walltown community, one of 14 partner neighborhoods in the Duke-Durham Neighborhood Partnership,” said Stelfanie Williams, vice president for Durham and community affairs in a Duke Today article.

The East Union Building houses Marketplace and Trinity Café, two student dining locations on campus. 

“As such, this naming also recognizes and celebrates the important role that generations of housekeeping and dining staff members have played in nurturing our campus community and creating a supportive environment for students throughout Duke’s history,” Price wrote. 

A ceremony to dedicate the building will be held during the Centennial Founders’ Day and Homecoming Weekend Centennial celebrations from Sept. 27 to 29.


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Abby Spiller | Editor-at-Large

Abby Spiller is a Trinity sophomore and an editor-at-large of The Chronicle's 119th volume.

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