James Dalton '44 is "a good steward of his resources and of his time," wrote Charlotte Gardner, his secretary for twenty-two years, who continued to work for him after he retired. "He guards his time, making sure it is well-spent." Dalton, a major supporter of cancer research at Duke, is the 2003 recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Duke Alumni Association. The award was established in 1983 to recognize alumni who have made significant contributions in their own fields, in service to the university, or for the betterment of humanity.
Along with his wife, Mary Helen, Dalton has contributed significantly to the Duke Brain Tumor Center, and to other areas of cancer research; a wing on the third floor of the Levine Science Research Center is named in their honor. He has been a member of the board of overseers for the Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center since 1993 and has served on and chaired the cancer center's development committee.
Dalton, who was a member of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity while at Duke, graduated with a degree in business administration. He joined Carolina Paper Board Corp. in Charlotte in 1947 and, two years later, became administrative manager of Austell Mill, a paper recycling company in Austell, Georgia. He advanced to president and chief executive officer. In 1980, the mill was acquired by Caraustar Industries, Inc., a holding company for six other enterprises. He served as chairman of the board until retiring in 1996.
Dalton is a trustee of Trinity Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, where he is active in the adult literacy program and a member of the senior adult ministry and planned-giving committees. He is a past president of the South Cobb/Austell Rotary Club; he has been a Rotary Club member since 1949 and a longtime member of the South Cobb Chamber of Commerce. In 1986, the two organizations named him South Cobb Citizen of the Year.
With his brothers, he established in 1995 the Dalton Professorship of Environmental Studies at Brevard College. He has been a generous supporter of the Center for the Performing Arts at Brevard.
Dalton brings to his recent honor a legacy of loyalty to Duke, which includes a son, James P. Dalton B.S.E. '81; a sister, Duke trustee Sally Dalton Robinson '55; a brother-in-law, Russell M. Robinson II '54; a sister-in-law, Gwin Barnwell Dalton '46; a nephew, Russell Robinson III '81; and three nieces, Edith Dalton Caughman '72, Cammie Robinson Hauptfuhrer '78, and Sally Dalton Robinson '84.