|Member of the U.S. House of Representatives|
from Tennessee's 2nd district
November 8, 1988 - January 3, 2019
|John Duncan Sr.|
John James Duncan Jr.
July 21, 1947
Lebanon, Tennessee, U.S.
|Father||John Duncan Sr.|
|Education||University of Tennessee (BA)|
George Washington University (JD)
|Branch/service||United States Army|
|Years of service||1970-1987|
|Unit||United States Army Reserve|
• Tennessee Army National Guard
John James Duncan Jr. (born July 21, 1947) is an American politician who served as the U.S. Representative for Tennessee's 2nd congressional district from 1988 to 2019. A lawyer, former judge, and former long serving member of the Army National Guard, he is a member of the Republican Party. The district is based in Knoxville. Lincoln Memorial University's Duncan School of Law in Knoxville is named after Duncan. Duncan did not run for reelection in 2018.
Duncan was born in Lebanon, Tennessee. His "paternal grandparents were small-areage farmers in Scott County, which in 1861 left Tennessee, refusing to follow the Volunteer State into the Confederacy, and declared itself 'the Free and Independent state of Scott.'" Duncan's parents were Lois (Swisher) and John Duncan Sr., who "hitchhiked into Knoxville with five dollars in his pocket,' and after an education at the University of Tennessee was elected mayor of Knoxville and then congressman." The elder Duncan was also a co-owner of the Knoxville Smokies of the "Sally League," for which his son "was a batboy, a ball shagger, scoreboard operator, and, as a freshman at the University of Tennessee, the Smokies' public-address announcer." Duncan also worked as a grocery bagger and salesman at Sears while working his way through school. Duncan supported Barry Goldwater's 1964 presidential campaign, and sent the first paycheck he earned as a bagboy at the local A&P to the Goldwater campaign.
Duncan graduated from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville in 1969 with a Bachelor of Journalism degree and subsequently received a Juris Doctor degree from George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C. in 1973 and was admitted to the bar that same year. He also served in the Army National Guard from 1970 to 1987. He was an attorney in private practice until he became a state court judge in Knox County, Tennessee, where he served from 1981 to 1988.
He was first elected to Congress in 1988, in a special election to succeed his late father, John Duncan Sr., and elected to the seat for a full term in his own right the same day. He was re-elected every two years from then until his retirement from a district that had been held continuously by Republicans (or their antecedents) since 1859, and by a Duncan since his father was first elected in 1964. He never faced a serious or well-funded challenge for reelection, and was reelected without major-party opposition in four consecutive elections (1994 through 2000).
Duncan voted against authorizing the 2003 War in Iraq based on opposition to what he believed to be an unnecessary foreign involvement. He also opposed and voted against a June 2006 House declaration in support of the war. He was one of the most conservative Republicans to do so. Duncan later remarked that the Iraq War vote had been
a tough one for me. I have a very conservative Republican district. My Uncle Joe is one of the most respected judges in Tennessee: when I get in a really serious bind I go to him for advice. I had breakfast with him and my two closest friends and all three told me that I had to vote for the war. It's the only time in my life that I've ever gone against my Uncle Joe's advice. When I pushed that button to vote against the war back in 2002, I thought I might be ending my political career.
Duncan was among only six Republicans to vote against funding for the Iraq War on May 24, 2007. Duncan voted, along with three other Republicans, to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq by April 2008 on July 12, 2007.
On March 10, 2010, Duncan again joined three other Republicans in voting for the removal of troops from Afghanistan. Duncan and Ron Paul were the only members of Congress to vote for the removal of troops from Afghanistan and against all recent bailout and stimulus bills.
Duncan is a member of the Liberty Caucus, a group of libertarian-minded congressional Republicans. Other members include Walter B. Jones of North Carolina, Roscoe Bartlett of Maryland, Scott Garrett of New Jersey, and Jeff Flake of Arizona. A former neighbor of his district, Zach Wamp of the 3rd district, also belonged to the group during his tenure in the House.
Duncan voted against the Wall Street bailout. In a column he explained his vote stating he "thought it would be better in the long run not to adopt the socialist approach." The American Conservative Union gave Duncan a 96% score for his voting record in 2013, higher than any other federal Representative in Congress from Tennessee.
The Family Research Council has rated Duncan as a 92% or above since 2002 and the NRA has rated him in equally positive terms. In 2012, Duncan received the number one spot in the 435-member House in the National Taxpayers Union's (NTU) annual ranking of Congress, earning him the "Taxpayer Hero" award.
Duncan is a frequent contributor to Chronicles and The American Conservative, both magazines associated with the paleoconservative movement. He has also contributed to numerous trade publications and Capitol Hill newspapers. Duncan has also voiced public support for returning the gold standard.
In February 2017 Representative Duncan refused to hold any town halls in his Congressional District after the election of President Donald Trump, calling some of his constituents extremists, kooks and radicals.
Duncan was being accused of misuse of campaign funds for using them to pay his son almost $300,000 over the course of five years, for work not done or for fees that were too high. Duncan denied the charges, though his son, John Duncan III (R) a Knox County Trustee, pled guilty to a felony charge of official misconduct for handing out bonuses to his own staff for training they had not received. Duncan the third resigned from office and was given one year of probation. His charges are now expunged.
As the investigation continued, on July 31, 2017, Duncan announced that he would not run for reelection in 2018. He wishes to spend more time with his family.
Duncan and his wife Lynn have four children and eight grandchildren.