The Reverse side features native son Duke Ellington, the internationally renowned composer and musician, seated at a grand piano with the inscriptions, DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, DUKE ELLINGTON and JUSTICE FOR ALL, the District’s motto.
Edward Kennedy Duke Ellington was born into a middle-class family in Washington, D.C., in 1899, and started piano lessons at the age of seven. He lived in Washington until 1923, when he moved to New York City. He began performing professionally at the age of 17, and once he arrived in New York, started playing in Broadway nightclubs and eventually led his own band. Ellington made hundreds of recordings—some with John Coltrane, Billy Strayhorn, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald—making him famous worldwide. Throughout his 50-year career, he returned often to Washington to perform, frequently staying at the Whitelaw Hotel located in his boyhood neighborhood in Washington. Throughout his life, he received numerous awards and honors, including multiple Grammy® awards and the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1969 in honor of his ability to carry the message of freedom to all the Nations of the world through his gift of music and understanding.