CWRU Links
Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

DUNCAN, WILLIAM McKINLEY

DUNCAN, WILLIAM McKINLEY

DUNCAN, WILLIAM McKINLEY (19 May 1873-5 Sept. 1945) was a nationally known railroad executive with the WHEELING & LAKE ERIE RAILROAD Company for thirty years, and senior partner in the law firm of SQUIRE, SANDERS & DEMPSEY. During the late 1920s Duncan's legal work on behalf of the W&LE helped clear obstacles for construction of the CLEVELAND UNION TERMINAL TOWER complex.

Nephew to President William B. McKinley, Duncan was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Andrew Jackson and Sarah McKinley Duncan. He attended public school in Pittsburgh, Rayen High School in Youngstown, Ohio, and Cornell University. Duncan was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1894 and began his legal career as an associate with the Cleveland firm of Squire, Sanders & Dempsey.

Duncan devoted much of his 50 year career with Squire Sanders to supervising the firm's railroad business. He was appointed chief counsel for the Wheeling & Lake Erie in 1905 and a receiver for the railroad in 1912. Over the next four years Duncan's corporate skills and knowledge of railroad law combined to pull the W&LE out of receivership. From 1916-1945 Duncan continued his association with the railroad as President and then Chairman of the Board. Duncan retired from Squire Sanders on December 31, l944 following a disagreement with Sterling Newell, who supervised the firm's corporate practice, over the makeup of a reorganized firm.

Duncan married Viola Deetrick in Youngstown, Ohio on 18 Oct. 1899. They had three sons: Wiliam McKinley, Jr., John Allison, and Andrew Jackson, III. Duncan is buried in Poland, Ohio.


The Book of Clevelanders: A Biographical Dictionary of Living Men of the City of Cleveland, The Burrows Bros. Company, Cleveland, 1914.

Gibbons, Ralph H. ed. A Century of Change: Squire, Sanders & Dempsey, Wheeler Communications, Cleveland, 1990.