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Ruth Ellington Boatwright, 88; Sister of Jazz, Big-Band Legend

March 12, 2004|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Ruth Ellington Boatwright, the younger sister of legendary jazz and big-band musician Duke Ellington, died Saturday in New York after a lengthy illness. She was 88.

Beginning in 1941, when Ellington formed Tempo Music, a company that owns most of his compositions, he made Boatwright president. She also maintained a room in a home in Manhattan that contained many of his medals and honors.

During the 1950s, Boatwright was host of a radio program on WLIB in New York. She was also founder of the jazz ministry of St. Peter's Lutheran Church in Manhattan.

When Ellington died in 1974, Boatwright oversaw his copyrights, contracts and business matters for years to come. She sold a number of his musical scores and manuscripts to the Smithsonian Institution in 1991.

"I feel that this is one of my gestures to express my love and gratitude to God for giving me such a magnificent and loving genius for a brother," Boatwright said in a statement at the time.

"Our mother always told Edward that he was blessed, and so I feel blessed to have even stood in his shadow," Boatwright said. (Ellington's real name was Edward Kennedy Ellington.)

She sold 51% of Tempo Music to a New York publisher in 1995.

Boatwright told the Washington Post in 1989 that her earliest memories of her brother, who was 16 years older, were listening to him on the radio when she was about 6.

Boatwright is survived by her sons, Michael and Stephen James, both of Manhattan.

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