Duane King, former executive director of Gilcrease Museum and a widely recognized authority on American Indian history and culture, died September 17, 2017. He was 70.
King had been serving as director of the Helmerich Center of American Research at Gilcrease Museum, and TU’s vice president of museum affairs. He joined Gilcrease in 2008 and helped lead the transition of museum management from the City of Tulsa to The University of Tulsa.
King oversaw construction of the Helmerich Center, which is adjacent to Gilcrease, and had been director since it opened in 2014.
He was nationally known as a scholar of American Indian culture and history and the American West, and he wrote and spoke frequently on the topics.
TU President Gerard Clancy said of King: “The academic community has lost a brilliant scholar, and the TU family has lost a dear friend. In my last conversation with him, we talked in-depth about how his work in understanding and teaching about America was so important in trying to heal today’s division in our nation.”
Before Tulsa, King directed museums in Los Angeles and New York, as well as Oregon and North Carolina.
He was founding editor of the Journal of Cherokee Studies and was former executive director of the Cherokee National Historical Society in Tahlequah. A noted Cherokee expert, he was often consulted by Cherokee Nation citizens on a variety of historical matters.
He was also among the advisers behind the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum for the American Indian in Washington, D.C.
A graduate of the University of Tennessee, King held a master’s and doctorate from the University of Georgia, the latter of which focused on researching the Cherokee language.
King loved Gilcrease Museum and the staff.
“Dr. King will be deeply missed. There was no kinder individual who consistently showed his concern for others,” said Susan Neal, executive director of Gilcrease Museum and HCAR, vice president for public affairs at TU.
Thomas Gilcrease believed in leaving a meaningful legacy, as evidenced by his words: “If you’re going to leave a track, make it a good one.” “Duane lived that philosophy,” Neal said.
“His work, his character and his impact will be long treasured locally and nationally,” she added.
King is survived by his wife, Elise (Lee), son, Travis and daughter, Angela.