A fine choice for First Citizen

Published 10:28 pm Friday, August 19, 2016

She’s been the familiar face of Duke Automotive for many years, and following her selection as the 2016 Suffolk First Citizen, Lydia Duke will be the face of Suffolk.

Duke was selected this week from a record nine nominees for the honorary title, conferred by the Suffolk and North Suffolk Rotary clubs. She will be celebrated during a special event on Sept. 29 at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts.

The award, given each year since 1956, except for a hiatus from 1999-2002, goes to an outstanding individual who best exemplifies the spirit of citizenship and who has shown significant leadership through his or her time, talents and efforts in order to make Suffolk a better place to live.


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Lydia Duke exemplifies those fine qualities and more.

Setting aside for a moment her charitable nature, her friendly demeanor and her commitment to improving the lives of others in this community, Duke’s spotless record as a principled businesswoman in an industry dominated by men and soiled by a reputation for dishonesty puts her in a class by herself.

“The so-called ‘gray area’ in business is foreign to her,” Duke Automotive employee Priscilla Taylor wrote in her nomination letter. “There is only right and wrong, and she does not stray from her high standards.”

But it is her commitment to the community that really makes Duke shine.

Duke is a past chairperson of the board of directors for Paul D. Camp Community College, served on the board of directors for Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce and the United Way of South Hampton Roads, served on the Southern Bank Advisory Board for Hampton Roads, served on Obici Hospital’s Ethics Board, and supported numerous local charities and school programs.

“She is the unique face of a long-term family business in a male-dominated industry,” Taylor wrote. “She has become respected within the community as a woman of wisdom and principle. She has been the steadfast rock for her business and her family.”

We could not agree more.

Duke joins a list of distinguished honorees that has included Suffolk real estate agent Billy Chorey Sr., the late Robert W. “Bobby” Harrell Jr., Dr. R. Leroy Howell Sr., M. Caroline Martin, former state Sen. Fred Quayle, Douglas Naismith, Delegate Chris Jones, Betsy Brothers, Ross Boone, attorney Whitney Saunders, longtime Councilman Curtis R. Milteer Sr., historian Sue Woodward, former mayor E. Dana Dickens III and others.

Many of those former honorees will be in attendance during the Sept. 29 First Citizen celebration, along with many others who have encountered this fine Suffolk woman in business or in one of her many roles in community service.

Those who would like to help honor her can visit www.suffolkrotary.org next week to make reservations to attend the event. Reservations can also be made in person at the Suffolk Center for the Cultural Arts. Other in-person reservation locations will be announced soon.