Nellie Dunaway Duke was born on the 20th anniversary of International Women’s Day and has spent her life working to improve the lives of women in Georgia and throughout the world. Nellie is a charter member and was chairperson of the Georgia Commission on Women from 1994-2015. She was first appointed by Lieutenant Governor Pierre Howard and later reappointed by Lieutenant Governor Mark Taylor and Lieutenant Governor Casey Cagle. She is also president and CEO of the Georgia Women’s Institute, chairperson and CEO of the Women’s History Museum, president of the Georgia Woman of the Year Committee, and founder and president of the Georgia Osteoporosis Initiative. Bill Clinton also appointed her to the Commission on Women in American History. As part of her work with the Georgia Commission on Women, she published the book, “Women & the Law, A Guide to Women’s Rights in Georgia.” She is a charter member of the Georgia Poetry Society.
Nellie has received many accolades over the years. The International Alliance of Women awarded her the TIAW World of Difference Award, and she was one of only 16 American women to receive this honor. The Georgia Legislature named her in their 25 Women for the 21st Century Award and named her an honorary state senator in 2008, and she received the Women’s Magnolia Leadership Award from the Georgia Commission on Women. Turner Broadcasting named her one of their Super 17, and the Atlanta Dream Professional Basketball Team declared her a Woman of Inspiration. The University of West Georgia holds an annual Nellie Duke Leadership Conference, and the Georgia Woman of the Year Committee gives out a Nellie Dunaway Duke Scholarship to a deserving Georgia woman each year. Most recently, the University of West Georgia’s Division on Diversity and Inclusion awarded Nellie the 2015 Living Legacy Award.
Nellie studied at the Carroll Lynn School of Business and Chicago University and worked in Sales and Marketing for JC Penney Co and later as Department Manager for Sears. She has also been a Semi-Pro Basketball Player (1947-1948), Basketball Coach, PTA President, Girl Scout Leader, Boy Scout Den Mother, Church Youth Counselor, Recreation Department Teen Director, Advocate for Women’s Rights, and Volunteer for Homeless Veterans.
Nellie lists among her greatest accomplishments her five children, ten grandchildren, and eight great grandchildren. She is also proud of changing, along with the NAACP, Carroll County Government (via Federal courts) and influencing city government to make it more diverse. In the 1960’s, Nellie worked to make school integration successful and peaceful and influenced the removal of the footnote in Georgia laws, “The above does not apply to women, idiots, or children.”
Nellie married Henry Duke in 1949, and they live in Carrolton, Georgia. Nellie is also famous around the Capitol for her delicious Nellie’s Jellies.