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‘Duke’ Ellington wins over D.C.

ellington170.jpgWashington, D.C., chose Edward Kennedy ?Duke? Ellington (1899-1974) as its choice to appear on its quarter design for 2009 in a contest that pitted the jazz great against abolitionist Frederick Douglass and scientist and surveyor Benjamin Banneker, who laid out the boundaries of the District of Columbia two centuries ago.

Ellington, who was born in his grandmother?s house in Washington and lived there in his early years, was a jazz great whose band played from the 1920s until today (it was managed after his death by his son, Mercer, and then his estate).

A total of 6,089 residents of the federal district voted in the selection process and of these 36 percent chose Ellington, whose piano playing was legendary and whose style of play took him on the ?A Train? to Harlem?s Cotton Club.

Voters went 33 percent for Frederick Douglas (1818-1895) who also lived in Washington in the Anacostia section across the Potomac River and 31 percent for Benjamin Banneker (1731-1806), whose professions included surveyor, mathematician, astronomer, clockmaker, and publisher. All are African-Americans.

District of Columbia Mayor Adrian Fenty advised Mint Director Edmund Moy on June 19 of the winning vote, but the exercise in democracy now depends on Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, who must make the final decision on coin design. He is not bound by the popular vote.

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