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Mural honors beloved carrier, musician

Man stands near mural
Joe Pagac stands near the mural he painted in Washington, DC, to honor Roger “Buck” Hill, also known as “the Wailing Mailman.”

A new mural in Washington, DC, celebrates Roger “Buck” Hill, a retired letter carrier and renowned jazz saxophonist who died in 2017 at age 90.

The 70-foot mural is the city’s tallest, and depicts Hill, also known as the Wailing Mailman,” in a postal uniform playing the saxophone — which was part of his morning routine before beginning his Northeast DC mail route.

Joe Pagac, a Tucson, AZ, artist, painted the mural, one of several that the city recently commissioned to honor its diversity and history.

Pagac chose to depict Hill, who retired from USPS in 1998, after reading about his life, which included playing alongside jazz legends like Dizzy Gillespie when off the clock.

“Buck Hill hadn’t been commemorated very well and he was such an integral part of the community,” said Pagac. “He stuck around DC for his entire life.”

The mural is located along the city’s historic U Street corridor, an area once known as “Black Broadway.” The neighborhood is experiencing gentrification, which Pagac wants his work to address.

“I wanted to create something that empowers people and gives them a sense of hope by commemorating the roots of the community,” he said. “I want to show that not everything is lost to the grind of progress.”

Pagac, who completed the mural in 10 days, said he hopes his work will “make people smile. I want to take them out of their daily grind and give them something to look at.”

DC officials, civic leaders and Hill’s family attended the dedication ceremony Aug. 27, which the city declared as “Roger Wendell ‘Buck’ Hill Day.”

“I’m very proud,” Hill’s daughter, Robin, told WAMU, a local NPR station. “He would have loved it.”

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