The Executive Vice President of Duke University has been accused of calling a parking attendant the N-word during a football game. The alleged incident occurred on August 30, 2014, when Tallman Trask III had a run in with parking attendant named Shelvia Underwood, according to an extensive report from the Duke Chronicle. The school’s paper says that he had been trying to access a closed off road during a Duke football game against Elon University. After he hit Underwood with his Porsche, the Chronicle says that Trask drove away but not before calling her a “dumb, dumb, stupid ni**er.”
Here’s what you need to know about Trask and this crazy story:
1. Several Witnesses Saw Trask Hit Underwood With His Car But None Heard Him Use the Slur
The Duke Chronicle reports that Underwood didn’t recognize who Trask was when he approached. She was employed by an outside contractor, McLaurin Parking and Transportation. Underwood says when she approached his car to talk to him he hit the gas, “This car has hit me. My hands are on the hood, then I hit the ground.” She says she told Trask, “Really sir, really? You’re in that much of a hurry that you hit me with your car?”
Eventually, Trask showed her his parking pass, which gave him access to the closed road and he went through, but not before calling her a “ni**er.”
The Duke Chronicle says in their report that there were plenty of witnesses to Trask’s actions. The newspaper even printed a photo of a note he left for Underwood after the incident. Though, there were no witnesses who heard the racial slur. However, Underwood’s supervisor says she complained straight away that Trask had racially abused her. She went on to say that she felt as though her employer was putting pressure on her not to file a police report because her company had just been given a six year contract with Duke University.
2. His Ex-Wife Accused Him of Drunkenly Sexually Assaulting Her
According to the court documents in Trask’s 2008 divorce from his then-wife, Marcia Muchmore, in 1994, while their marriage was in a period of stress, she accused him of drunkenly sexually assaulting her. The couple decided not to get divorced then because of their young children. As a gesture of good will, Trask tore up the couple’s pre-nuptial agreement. The couple finally separated in 2005, having married in March 1986, before becoming divorced in 2008.
They had two children together, Tallman Trask IV and Molly Trask, the latter a former Duke student.
In March 2015, Marcia Muchmore passed away after a short battle with illness.
3. He Was Warned a Year Before 2 Lacrosse Players Were Falsely Accused of Rape That the Team Was Out of Control
The Herald Sun in Durham reported in 2006 that in 2005 Trask was warned by Duke’s athletic director Joe Alleva that the school’s lacrosse team were out of control. The team’s coach had even warned that something had to be done to “get them in line.” Alleva said that Trask told him, “He said there were too many incidents, but there’s not enough incidents to make a drastic change in the program at this point in time.”
A year later Reade Seligmann and Collin Finnerty were both arrested on rape charges. The pair were later acquitted but the scandal cast a dark shadow over Duke. The Baltimore Sun reported in 2007, citing an unnamed parent, said that Trask had told the accused players that he believed in their innocence. Despite this, he had the lacrosse team forfeit the season, something which left the other players on the team feeling betrayed.
4. His Favorite Quote on Facebook Is ‘Wish I Didn’t Know Now What I Didn’t Know Then’
On his Facebook page About section, Trask gives his favorite quote as, “wish I didn’t know now what I didn’t know then.” On his LinkedIn page, Trask says he’s a native of southern California. He graduated from Northwestern University in 1971 and got his PhD from the University of California in 1974. Trask began his career working for his alma-mater before moving to the University of Washington to become the executive vice president. He’s been at Duke University since 1995.
5. His Role in the Regeneration of Downtown Durham Has Been Celebrated
The Herald Sun reported in October 2013 that Trask was being congratulated for his role in the regeneration of downtown Durham. In 2006, he told Business North Carolina about the school’s role in the regeneration. Trask said, “There were long discussions, and we finally said’ ‘Look’ we’re prepared to help the city’ and we invest a lot of money in the city’ but some things are important to us, too.'”