Following in the Footsteps of His Ancestor at Harvard

Cambridge, MA. Sir Thomas Dudley (1576-1653) was the colonial magistrate who served several terms as governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. He is the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather of Jim Luce and is the ‘Dudley’ of The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation.


Sir Dudley was the chief founder of Newtowne, renamed Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he built the town’s first home. He provided land and funds to establish the Roxbury Latin School, and signed Harvard College’s new charter during his 1650 term as governor.

Unlike Jim Luce, Dudley was a devout Puritan who was opposed to religious views not conforming with his own. Almost for centuries later, Jim remains a cultural Anglican—Episcopalian—but, married to a Buddhist, is far removed from Puritanism.


The son of a military man who died when he was young, Thomas Dudley saw military service himself during the French Wars of Religion, and then acquired some legal training before entering the service of his likely kinsman the Earl of Lincoln.

Along with other Puritans in Lincoln’s circle, Dudley helped organize the establishment of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, sailing with John Winthrop in 1630. He served four one-year terms as governor of the colony and was regularly in other positions of authority.

49686290_10156719300023828_2134230770493947904_nPlaque in memory of Thomas Dudley at Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.

Dudley’s daughter Anne Bradstreet (1612–1672) was a prominent early American poet. One of the gates of Harvard Yard, which stood from 1915 to 1947, was named in his honor, and Harvard’s Dudley House is named for the family – as is the town of Dudley, Massachusetts.

Thomas Dudley was born in Yardley Hastings, a village near Northampton, England, on October 12, 1576, to Roger and Susanna Thorne Dudley. His father, a captain in the English army, was apparently killed in battle in 1599. The family has connections to the Sutton-Dudleys of Dudley Castle.


Like many other young men of good birth, Thomas Dudley raised a company of men following a call to arms by Queen Elizabeth, and then served in the English army. He first fought against King Henry IV of France during the French Wars of Religion, and then fought the Spanish at the Siege of Amiens in 1597.

In 1628 Dudley and other Puritans decided to form the Massachusetts Bay Company, with a view toward establishing a Puritan colony in North America.

Dudley and his family sailed for the New World on the Arbella, the flagship of the Winthrop Fleet in April 1630 and arrived in Salem Harbour in June.

49564087_10156718939878828_3121177966936064000_oSir Thomas Dudley, 3rd, 7th, 11th, and 14th Governor of the Massachusetts
Bay Colony and first resident of Cambridge, Massachusetts, signed the
Harvard Charter authorizing Harvard College, May 30, 1650.

In the spring of 1631 the leadership agreed to establish the colony’s capital at Newtowne (near present-day Harvard Square in Cambridge), and the town was surveyed and laid out.

Dudley and others built their houses there, but to Dudley’s anger, Winthrop decided to build his in Boston. This decision caused a rift between Dudley and Winthrop—it was serious enough that in 1632 Dudley resigned his posts and considered returning to England.


In 1632 Dudley, at his own expense, erected a palisade around Newtowne (renamed ‘Cambridge’ in 1636) that enclosed 1,000 acres of land, principally as a defense against wild animals and Indian raids. This is twenty times the size of Boston Commons and significantly larger than New York’s Central Park.

In 1635, Rev. Roger Williams began preaching a “covenant of grace” while most of the colony’s leadership, including Dudley and Winthrop, espoused a more Legalist Puritanical view (“covenant of works”). Roger Williams became persona non-grata in Massachusetts over theological differences and was forced to flee to Rhode Island.


During Thomas Dudley’s term of office in 1640, many new laws were passed. This led to the introduction the following year of the Massachusetts Body of Liberties, a document that contains guarantees that were later placed in the U.S. Bill of Rights.

The most notable act during this term were the issuance of a new charter for Harvard College.

The_Arbella_--_Gov._Winthrop's_Flagship,_The_Pioneers'_Village,_Salem,_Mass.The flagship Arbella of the Winthrop Fleet on which Governor Thomas Dudley
and Puritan emigrants transported themselves and the Charter of the
Massachusetts Bay Company from England to Salem in 1630.

Early Massachusetts historian James Savage wrote of Dudley that “[a] hardness in public, and rigidity in private life, are too observable in his character.”

Interestingly, historians referred to Rear Admiral Stephen Bleecker Luce on Jim’s patriarchal side — the founder of the U.S. Naval War College in 1884, as “intensely unhumorous.” Admiral Luce, with Admiral Thayer Mahan, is credited with the concept of American Manifest Destiny.


In 1637 the Massachusetts Bay Colony established a committee “to take order for a new college at Newtown.” The committee consisted of most of the colony’s elders, including Dudley.

In 1638, John Harvard, an oddly childless colonist, bequeathed to the colony his library and half of his estate as a contribution to the college, which was consequently named in his honor. Harvard died at only 31.


The college charter was first issued in 1642, and a second charter was issued in 1650, signed by then-Governor Thomas Dudley, who also served for many years as one of the college’s overseers.

Harvard University’s Dudley House, now only an administrative unit located in Lehman Hall after the actual house was torn down, is named in honor of the Dudley family.


Harvard Yard once had a Dudley Gate bearing words written by his daughter Anne; it was torn down in the 1940s to make way for construction of Lamont Library. A fragment remains in Dudley Garden, behind Lamont Library, including a lengthy inscription in stone.

In 1643, Reverend John Eliot established a school at Roxbury. Dudley, who was then living in Roxbury, gave significant donations of both land and money to the school, which survives to this day as the Roxbury Latin School.

49345001_10156719302408828_4550169536854228992_nThe New York Times announcement of the wedding of Jim Luce’s parents in 1947.

It is interesting to note that Thomas Dudley’s fourth child, Sarah, married a militia officer but the union was unhappy and resulted in the first reported instance of divorce in the colony.

Centuries later, another relative of Jim Luce, divorcée Wallis Simpson— cousin of his grandmother Irene Simpson Dudley Alleman — would cause the King of England to abdicate his throne.


In 1636 Dudley moved from Cambridge to Ipswich, and in 1639 moved to Roxbury. He died in Roxbury on 31 July 1653, and was buried in the Eliot Burying Ground there.

We can only imagine what Dudley Luce College might look like one day – Raising, Supporting and Educating Young Global Leaders. Or, as they might say at that school, 全球青年领袖的培养,支持和教育。

The Editors thank Wikipedia for much of this piece.

See: “Our America” – Exploring U.S. History through Family’s Eye

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Editors
The Stewardship Report on Connecting Goodness is the communications platform of The James Jay Dudley Luce Foundation ( There are now more than 100 contributors around the world to this publication.

Comments are closed.