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Duke It Out: The Woman Behind the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation

Doris Duke

Every artist needs an audience in order to survive. Some get by with the help of well-to-do patrons. Fewer still are bestowed with gifts from angels. Doris Duke was one such angel. The billionaire heiress and lifelong philanthropist used her immense wealth to aid in the preservation of some of her favorite things: endangered wildlife, Islamic and Southeast Asian art, modern dance and jazz.

Now, how is it that the daughter of privilege (her father was billionaire tobacco baron James “Buck” Duke, who started the American Tobacco Company and built Duke University) would include in her last will and testament a major chunk of money set aside for the preservation of jazz? (In her will, Ms. Duke expressed her interest in supporting “actors, dancers, singers, musicians and other artists of the entertainment world in fulfilling their ambitions and providing opportunities for the public presentation of their arts and talents.” The full will can be read online at newsmakers/wills/

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