Jimmy Duncan (politician)

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Jimmy Duncan
Official portrait, c. 2006
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 2nd district
In office
November 8, 1988 – January 3, 2019
Preceded byJohn Duncan Sr.
Succeeded byTim Burchett
Judge of the Knox County Court
In office
Personal details
John James Duncan Jr.

(1947-07-21) July 21, 1947 (age 76)
Lebanon, Tennessee, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Lynn Hawkins
(m. 1978; died 2021)

Vicki Frye (m. 2022)
  • John Duncan Sr. (father)
Residence(s)Knoxville, Tennessee (c. 1970-2019)
Bean Station, Tennessee (2019-present)[1]
EducationUniversity of Tennessee (BA)
George Washington University (JD)
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service1970–1987
Rank Captain[2]
UnitUnited 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.

Early life, education, and legal career[edit]

Duncan was born in Lebanon, Tennessee. His "paternal grandparents were small-acreage 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.'"[3] 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."[3] 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."[3] 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.[3]

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.

U.S. House of Representatives[edit]


John Sr., who had represented the Knoxville-based 2nd District since 1965, died in June 1988. Jimmy Duncan won the Republican nomination to succeed him. He ran in and won two elections on November 8, 1988–a special election for the balance of his father's 12th term, and a regular election for a full two-year term. 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.[3]

He won reelection fourteen times (1990-2016), generally garnering above 70% of the total vote each time.[4] 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). On the occasions he did face major-party opposition, he only dropped below 70% of the vote twice, during the special and regular elections in 1988.


Duncan with President George W. Bush and U.S. Senator Bill Frist aboard Air Force One in 2001
U.S. Senators Bob Corker, Richard Burr, Lamar Alexander, and Congressman John Duncan (third from right) among others at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 2009

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.[5] He was one of the most conservative Republicans to do so.[6] Duncan later remarked that the Iraq War vote had been

[The War in Iraq was] 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.[3]

Duncan was among only six Republicans to vote against funding for the Iraq War on May 24, 2007.[7] Duncan voted, along with three other Republicans, to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq by April 2008 on July 12, 2007.[8]

On March 10, 2010, Duncan again joined three other Republicans in voting for the removal of troops from Afghanistan.[9] 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.[10]

He has criticized neoconservatism and supports a non-interventionist foreign policy.[11]

Duncan was a member of the Liberty Caucus, a group of libertarian-minded congressional Republicans.[12] Other members included 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.[13]

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."[14] 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.[15]

The Family Research Council has rated Duncan as a 92% or above since 2002[6] and the NRA Political Victory Fund has rated him in equally positive terms.[16][6] 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.[17]

In April 2016, Duncan endorsed Donald Trump for the Republican presidential nomination.[18]

On 5 January 2017, he was one of only four Republicans to oppose the House's resolution 11 condemning the United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334.[19]


In February 2017, Duncan refused to hold any town halls in his district after the election of then recently inaugurated President Donald Trump. Duncan said that he preferred one-on-one meetings rather than town halls, adding that he was not willing to give a platform to "extremists, kooks and radicals."[20]

Misuse of campaign funds[edit]

Duncan was 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.[21]

However 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 III resigned from office and was given one year of probation. His charges are now expunged.[22][23]

Retirement from Congress[edit]

On July 31, 2017, Duncan announced that he would not run for reelection in 2018, citing to spend more time with his family.[24]

Committee assignments[edit]

Caucus memberships[edit]

Personal life[edit]

Duncan and his wife Lynn (née Hawkins) were married in 1978.[30] They have four children, including former Knox County Trustee John Duncan III, and eight grandchildren.[31] Lynn died in August 2021.[32][33][34] He married Vickie Dowling in May 2022.[35]

He is also the brother of Tennessee State Senator Becky Duncan Massey. After retiring from Congress, Duncan relocated from his home in Knoxville to Bean Station in neighboring Grainger County.[1]


  1. ^ a b Vines, Georgiana (October 21, 2018). "Outgoing Congressman John J. 'Jimmy' Duncan reflects on 30 years in office". Knoxville News Sentinel. Retrieved June 22, 2020.
  2. ^ "Once a Soldier ... Always a Soldier" (PDF). Legislative Agenda. Association of the United States Army. 2011. Archived from the original (PDF) on 21 October 2013. Retrieved 27 January 2013.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Kauffman, Bill (2005-09-12) Volunteer Statesman, The American Conservative
  4. ^ "Election Statistics: 1920 to Present | US House of Representatives: History, Art & Archives". history.house.gov. Retrieved 2023-12-04.
  5. ^ "NWSource.com". Retrieved 25 November 2023.
  6. ^ a b c "Vote Smart | Facts For All". Vote Smart. Archived from the original on 10 July 2007.
  7. ^ Bresnahan, John (2007-05-25). "McNerney Takes Tough Vote On The War". CBS News. The Politico.
  8. ^ "Final vote results for roll call 624". clerk.house.gov. Retrieved 23 November 2023.
  9. ^ "Final vote results for roll call 98". clerk.house.gov. Retrieved 23 November 2023.
  10. ^ "17 courageous Congressmen voted against all bailouts | Republican Liberty Caucus". Rlc.org. 2009-03-26. Archived from the original on 2010-08-13. Retrieved 2010-08-29.
  11. ^ "Syria Intervention a Mistake | Congressman John J. Duncan, Jr". Archived from the original on 2016-09-07.
  12. ^ "The Liberty Committee". Retrieved 2007-06-24.
  13. ^ Caldwell, Christopher (2007-07-22). "The Antiwar, Anti-Abortion, Anti-Drug-Enforcement-Administration, Anti-Medicare Candidacy of Dr. Ron Paul". The New York Times Magazine. Retrieved 2007-07-21.
  14. ^ Duncan, Jimmy (October 20, 2008). "Duncan Column on the Financial Bailout". Official U.S. House website. Archived from the original on May 29, 2009.
  15. ^ "ACU Ratings | American Conservative Union". Archived from the original on 2014-05-02. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
  16. ^ "NRA-PVF | Grades | Tennessee". nrapvf.org. NRA-PVF. Archived from the original on November 4, 2014.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  17. ^ "Tennessee GOPer Floats Return to the Gold Standard". Salon. Dec 3, 2012.
  18. ^ KRISTEN EAST (2016-04-30). "Rep. Jimmy Duncan endorses Donald Trump". politico.
  19. ^ Washington, U. S. Capitol Room H154; p:225-7000, DC 20515-6601 (January 5, 2017). "Roll Call 11 Roll Call 11, Bill Number: H. Res. 11, 115th Congress, 1st Session". Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  20. ^ Dorman, Travis; Ohm, Rachel (February 6, 2017). "Duncan says 'no' to town hall, cites kooks". Knoxville News Sentinel. Knoxville, Tennessee. Retrieved 2017-02-07.
  21. ^ US House Committee on Ethics (January 2, 2019). "Legislator Misconduct Database, Rep. John "Jimmy" Duncan [R-TN2, 1988-2018]". govtrack.us/.
  22. ^ Vines, Georgiana (October 21, 2018). "Outgoing Congressman John J. 'Jimmy' Duncan reflects on 30 years in office". Knoxville News Sentinel. Knoxville, Tennessee. Retrieved 2019-01-06.
  23. ^ Whetstone, Tyler (July 7, 2017). "Rep. Duncan's campaign paid son nearly $300,000". Knoxville News Sentinel. Knoxville, Tennessee. Retrieved 2019-01-06.
  24. ^ "U.S. Rep. Duncan Says He Won't Run for Re-election Next Year". New York City. Associated Press. July 31, 2017. Archived from the original on 2017-08-01. Retrieved 2017-07-31.
  25. ^ "Our Members". U.S. House of Representatives International Conservation Caucus. Archived from the original on 1 August 2018. Retrieved 1 August 2018.
  26. ^ "Members of the Veterinary Medicine Caucus". Veterinary Medicine Caucus. Archived from the original on 27 March 2019. Retrieved 12 October 2018.
  27. ^ "Members". Congressional Constitution Caucus. Archived from the original on 22 January 2020. Retrieved 8 May 2018.
  28. ^ "Members". Congressional NextGen 9-1-1 Caucus. Archived from the original on 12 June 2018. Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  29. ^ "Members". U.S. - Japan Caucus. Retrieved 11 December 2018.
  30. ^ ""A pillar of the Knoxville community" Lynn Duncan, wife of former congressman, has died". WATE 6 On Your Side. 2021-08-02. Retrieved 2021-08-19.
  31. ^ "John Duncan – Personal Life". Archived from the original on 2014-12-06.
  32. ^ "Former congressman's wife, Lynn Duncan, dies after battling health issues".
  33. ^ ""A pillar of the Knoxville community" Lynn Duncan, wife of former congressman, has died". 2 August 2021.
  34. ^ "Lynn Duncan, wife of former congressman and force of nature in her own right, dies". 2 August 2021.
  35. ^ "My new love story | The Knoxville Focus". Retrieved 2023-12-04.

External links[edit]

U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Tennessee's 2nd congressional district

Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas Former US Representative Order of precedence of the United States
as Former US Representative
Succeeded byas Former US Representative