James Terry Sanford was born 20 August 1917 in Laurinburg, N.C., the son of Cecil L. and Elizabeth Martin Sanford. He received a bachelor's degree in 1939 and a law degree in 1946, both from from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After serving in the military and FBI, and while practicing law in Fayetteville, N.C., Sanford embarked on a political career. He served as North Carolina State Senator from 1953 to 1954. In 1961, he was elected Governor of North Carolina and held the office through 1965. Sanford later served as a United States Senator from 1986 to 1992.
In December 1969, Sanford was elected President of Duke University. He assumed the office in April 1970, and held the position through June 1985. His involvement at Duke continued as President Emeritus, from 1985 to 1998, and as Professor of Public Policy, from 1992 to 1998. Terry Sanford died on April 18, 1998 and is buried in the Duke University Chapel crypt.