Highway marker to honor jazz great Strayhorn

Posted November 21, 2008 11:15 a.m. EST

— A state highway marker celebrating the life and work of jazz composer and arranger Billy Strayhorn will be unveiled at 10 a.m. Nov. 29 – the late Strayhorn's birthday – in downtown Hillsborough.

The marker will be installed on the west side of Churton Street, in front of the Orange Rural Fire Department.

Strayhorn was born in Dayton, Ohio, and spent much of his childhood in Pittsburgh. But both sides of his family were rooted in
Hillsborough, and he spent many childhood summers with his grandparents, where he began playing piano and gave his first musical

A giant of American jazz in the 20th century, he was a versatile composer, arranger and pianist and is best known for his long collaboration with Duke Ellington. He joined the Ellington orchestra in 1939 at age 22 and helped make Ellington a household name,
writing such numbers as "Take the 'A' Train" and "Lush Life."

Thomas J. Campanella, a University of North Carolina associate professor of urban design and a member of the Hillsborough Planning Board, applied for the marker. Mike Hill of the state Office of Archives and History and Barry Coble of the state Department of Transportation also promoted the marker.