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John Holt Duncan 1820-1896
Confederate Veteran and Founder of Beta Theta Pi

by The Beta Theta Pi Fraternity

 

 John Holt Duncan, 1840
"John Holt" was 19 when the Eight founded Beta Theta Pi

Born July 7, 1820, in Cynthiana, Kentucky, and taken as a baby to Jefferson County, Mississippi. He was a grandson of Major Thomas Holt, who was on Lafayette's staff at the surrender of Cornwallis at Yorktown.

Member if the Erodelphian Literary Society. A junior at the founding, he was the first president of Alpha Chapter, giving his inaugural address on August 8, 1939. He roomed in the home of Captain Joel Collins, Indian-fighter, pioneer settler, surveyor of Oxford Township, secretary and Miami University superintendent, who played a material role in Miami's survival.

May have practiced law in Fayette, Mississippi, before moving to Houston, Texas, about 1854. By 1857, he was chief justice of Bexar County, Texas. Resigned that post to accept a Confederate cavalry captains in 1862. He lost a leg in battle "while gallantly charging the enemy." Became a Texas District Judge 1864-65 and

 

John Holt Duncan

 

John Holt Duncan

Houston City Attorney 1877-79.

He never married. According to a nephew, he "deemed it his duty to support and educate the children of the man murdered for his sake, and though deeply enamored of a most lovely woman who returned his affection, both denied themselves the pleasure of marriage and children to fulfill what he considered a sacred duty."

He died on May 27, 1896, in the Confederate Old Soldiers Home at Austin, Texas. He was buried at the Texas State Cemetery. Years later, Texas Betas replaced his simple veteran's marker with a handsome granite shaft in the eight-sided outline of the modern Beta badge, recognizing him as a Founder.

"John Holt was a Southerner; the best dressed boy in the class, and the best appearing young gentleman in the whole college. But he couldn't study mathematics. In the other departments he stood well."

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Copyright John Holt Duncan, The Beta Theta Pi Fraternity

 
 

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