Ellington Comes Out Ahead in Coin Tossup

By Mary Beth Sheridan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 20, 2008

The people of the District of Columbia have spoken. And the winner is: Duke Ellington.

More than 6,000 D.C. residents chose among three legendary local figures to be memorialized on the back of a U.S. quarter that will be minted to represent the District. Ellington, the jazz great, received 36 percent of the vote. He was followed by 33 percent for abolitionist Frederick Douglass, and 31 percent for mathematician and astronomer Benjamin Banneker. In all, 6,089 residents voted.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) announced the results in a letter to the U.S. Mint released yesterday evening. However, the final decision on the design is up to Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr.

The commemorative coin is scheduled for release in January.

If the Ellington design is chosen, it "will help to educate the public about the incredible diversity of residents who call the nation's capital home," Fenty wrote.

D.C. residents voted online, by mail and by telephone over the past month. The Ellington design features the musician at the piano and includes the District's motto, "Justice for All."

The Mint earlier rejected the city's request to include "Taxation Without Representation" on the coin, a slogan referring to residents' lack of a vote in Congress.

Those who voted on the quarter differed with the recommendation of an 11-member citizens advisory panel, which earlier supported the Banneker design.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), the city's congressional delegate, said that Ellington had been her top choice, because he represented the city more than the other candidates.

"He took music lessons here; he grew up here; his life was all D.C.," she said.

She said she expected the Treasury to agree with the selection of Ellington. "I don't see any reason for them to veto our choice," she said.

Ellington was born in Washington in 1899, raised in the LeDroit Park area and educated in D.C. public schools. Later, he performed in the city.

The Mint is close to finishing production of quarters designed for each of the 50 states. A law passed last year with Norton's backing provided for coins for the District, Puerto Rico, American Samoa, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Northern Mariana Islands.

Staff writer Clarence Williams contributed to this report.

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