WASHINGTON, November 23, 2014 – Marion Barry, Jr. (March 6, 1936 – November 23, 2014) has died at the age of 78. The Washington Post once said that to understand the District of Columbia, once must understand Marion Barry.
In October of 1986, amid rumors of his own drug use, Barry said he would convene a D.C. drug summit to discuss the cocaine epidemic in DC.
“I may not be perfect,” he said a month later, after his election to a third term, “but I am perfect for Washington.”
The son of a sharecropper who suffered segregation and poverty as a child, Marion Barry, Jr. served as the first chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the African-American Civil Rights Movement. Barry eventually became the second elected Mayor of the District of Columbia from 1979 to 1991, and was then re-elected as the District’s fourth Mayor from 1995 to 1999.
Barry came to national prominence as mayor of the nation’s capital, the first civil-rights activist to become chief executive of a major American city. Barry was elected to the mayor’s office in 1978, 1982, 1986 and 1994.
In 1984 he gave the presidential nomination speech for Jesse Jackson at the 1984 Democratic National Convention.
A life well lived, Barry’s legend is forever tarnish by his January 1990 arrest for misdemeanor cocaine possession after being videotaped smoking.
The arrest and subsequent trial precluded Barry seeking re-election that year, and Barry served six months in a federal prison.
After his release, however, he was elected to the DC city council in 1992 and ultimately returned to the mayoralty in 1994, serving from 1995 to 1999.
Despite his history of political and legal controversies, Barry remains a popular and influential figure in the local political scene of Washington, D.C.
From the Mayor’s office, Barry was elected as a member of the Council of the District of Columbia, representing Washington, D.C.’s Ward 8.
Barry previously served two other tenures on the DC Council, as an at-large member from 1975 to 1979 and as Ward 8 representative from 1993 to 1995.
Barry died at United Medical Center in Washington.
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