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William Fred Duckworth

Forest Lawn Cemetery
Location: East Center Lawn Lot 219S Space 1
(- March 3, 1972)

 William Fred Duckworth photo

W. Fred Duckworth brought about many changes in the city of Norfolk during his 12 years in office as the city’s mayor from 1950 until 1962. His tragic death from a shooter’s bullet remains a mystery which has yet to be solved.

During his time in office, the citizens of Norfolk saw many positive changes including the construction of tunnels to Portsmouth and the Peninsula and the establishment of an industrial park. Although it was not enacted, he also supported the consolidation of the cities of Hampton Roads under one metropolitan government similar to New York City.
After going to New York City personally to meet with General Douglas MacArthur, Duckworth is credited with persuading him to choose Norfolk as the site for his place of burial and the location where the documents of his long military career would be maintained.  Duckworth later served as president of MacArthur Memorial Foundation.  General MacArthur’s widow, Jean, was among the mourners who attended his funeral.      

Serving as mayor during the era of Massive Resistance against school integration, Duckworth supported the closing of Norfolk schools in 1958 because he felt that it would force the state government to resolve the issue.       

Duckworth grew up in Brevard, N.C.  He attended Davidson College, but left after only one and a half years to begin working at the Ford Motor Co. plant in Charlotte, N.C. in 1920. Advancing from one position to another, he was named manager in 1931 at the age of 32.  He later transferred to the Ford operation in Memphis in 1933 and moved to the Ford plant in Norfolk in 1936 when the plant in Memphis closed. When the government took over the plant during World War II, Duckworth was named as deputy regional director of the War Production Board in Cleveland.  He returned to Norfolk in 1944 to take over the Ford agency which is now known as Cavalier Motor Company.   He served as president of the company until 1957 when he was named chairman of the board.      

After leaving office as mayor in 1962, Duckworth remained active in community affairs.  He served as president and general manager of the Tidewater Virginia Development Council, a regional industry-hunting organization he helped found.  He also was a state highway commissioner and a member of the governing body of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.        

Duckworth’s life ended on the evening of Friday, May 3, 1972.  As he went for his usual walk in his neighborhood just south of West Little Creek Road, he was fatally shot six times.  Because his pockets did not appear to have been searched, robbery did not appear to be the motive.  He did not have his wallet with him, but two valuable rings he was wearing, including one with a diamond, were not removed from his body. Police questioned several suspects but were unable to identify the shooter. Although the Chamber of Commerce offered a $5,000 reward to anyone who would provide information about the crime, it was never solved.



Hardy, Mike; Virginian-Pilot, “No Suspects Charged In Duckworth Killing,” March 5, 1972, pgs. A-1, A-6.
Henderson, Jim; Virginian-Pilot, “He Led Norfolk With Words and Action,” March 5, 1972, pgs. A-1, A6.
Hubbard, Clifford; Virginian-Pilot, “A Mile of Mourners For Duckworth Rites,” May 8, 1972, pgs. A-1, A-4.

Virginian-Pilot, “$5,000 Offered for Duckworth Leads,” May 8, 1972, p. B1.

Biographical information provided by Norfolk Bureau of Cemeteries. Profile written by Michael Frost, Norfolk Society for Cemetery Conservation volunteer.

Visitor Information

Visitor Hours: Sunrise to Sunset

Office hours: Monday to Sunday 8:00 AM to 4:30 PM

Free parking inside cemetery.

Admission Cost: Free

Address: 8100 Granby Street, Norfolk, VA 23505

Official web site for more information:

Norfolk Society for Cemetery Conservation Web Site: