|Bobby Short's relationship to his hometown of
Danville, Illinois was, by all accounts, complex. Next to the singer himself,
Danville is the biggest character in Black and White Baby, Short's first volume of
His recollections of Danville are
full of contrasts: growing up in crushing poverty, but in a loving home where music and
creativity were encouraged; or dealing with institutional racism in a school system which
nonetheless had supportive teachers.
Bobby Short visits the library, March 3, 2001
by David Nolan)
Like many successful people who have worked
their way out of poverty, Short -- the epitome of New York sophistication --
never forgot his modest Midwest roots. He returned home frequently, and not
only for family visits. Beginning with a benefit concert for the Laura Lee Fellowship
House in 1964 and continuing into the 1990's, Bobby performed in Danville
several times to
raise money for charitable causes. While seeking to "give something
back" to his hometown, he earned the respect and gratitude of its
Above, Bobby's childhood homes: 1034 Robinson Street
(left), where he resided from his birth in 1926 until the early 1930's, when the
family moved up the street to 1135 Robinson (right). A third house at 627
North Oak Street, where the Shorts moved in 1936, no longer exists.
Above, Short's beloved Garfield Elementary
School. In 1997, he established the Bobby Short Scholarship through an
endowment to the Danville Area Community College Foundation. The scholarship is
awarded annually to a liberal arts student at DACC who graduated from
Garfield. An autographed photo (right) hangs in the school lobby.
The Wolford Hotel, a Danville landmark. As a teenager, Bobby
performed in its upscale saloon. He returned in 1972 for a benefit performance for Lake View
Memorial Auxiliary Hospital. The Wolford is now a retirement home.
"Oh Rocket" in a 1941 yearbook
Marker on the corner of Gilbert & Fairchild Streets, Danville
proclamation, March 2, 2001, was
Bobby Short Day in Danville. A banquet honored Bobby for his work with the Danville
Community Public School Foundation. The next day he visited Danville Public Library,
where he talked with library staff and patrons.
Library Director Barb Nolan (above left) presented
Bobby with a plaque depicting the original Carnegie library -- the one he used as a child.
Showing Bobby Short this
website. (Photo by David Nolan)
(Photo by Matt Huber,
courtesy Danville Commercial News)
was to be honored at Danville High School on April 17, 2005. When he died just weeks before the event,
school decided to go on with the show and celebrate his
The DHS Jazz Band and Show Choir performed
songs by Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, and other songwriters whose
work Bobby helped immortalize.
"DHS Honors Robert Waltrip
Short -- Class of 1942," a short documentary by Craig Lindvahl,
was shown; and Reginald Short, Bobby's only surviving sibling,
addressed the crowd via a prerecorded greeting.
celebration ended with DHS Principal Gail Garner presenting several
students with a newly established Bobby Short
Above left, DHS band director Mark Lindvahl accompanies the jazz band underneath
posters of Bobby. Below, a ticket to the event.
July 22, 2005, Bobby Short's remains were returned to Danville for burial
beside his parents at Atherton Cemetery on Perrysville Road, south of
Danville. Several dozen friends and family members, including
Bobby's brother, Reginald, attended a brief service conducted by Pastor
(Story by Matt Williams, Photo by Rick Danzi, courtesy The
Below, in 2005, the McDonald's restaurant on Gilbert
Street in Danville was remodeled to showcase an impressive salute to famous
Danville natives with permanent displays of photographs and memorabilia.
on April 28, 2006, the collage Bobby Short at the Moving Picture Ball
was unveiled at the Danville Public Library. Created for Short
in the late 1960's by New York artist Richard Marshall Merkin, it was
acquired by the Nichols family of Danville at Christie's February 2006
auction of Short property, and they have generously placed it on long-term
loan to the library.
Bobby Short at the Moving
Picture Ball by Richard Marshall Merkin
Above, Steve, Cindy,
and Carol Nichols unveil the collage.
(Photo by David Nolan)
Bobby posing with the piece in his New York apartment, circa
(Photo courtesy Christie's