Marion Barry Former Washington, DC Mayor Has Died [Update]

Marion Barry

Former Washington, DC 4-term mayor and civil rights activist, Marion Barry, has died at the age of 79 at United Medical Center in Washington, according to a Breaking News article that appeared in the Guardian Liberty Voice and several other sources. Marion Barry passed away in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Marion Barry had a successful career in politics, though one that was also plagued by allegations of drug use that culminated with his arrest in 1990 on crack cocaine charges. He was also accused of stalking a former girlfriend and giving her a $15,000 contract. In 2010, Barry’s colleagues on the Washington, DC council censured him for this action.

His political career was a tumultuous one, but Barry’s faith in God helped keep him going during his darkest times and he was much-loved by the voters in his district. According to an obituary in the Washington Post, Marion Barry was considered to be one of the most controversial, thought also influential, mayors in the history of Washington, DC. His constituents remained loyal to Barry through thick and thin, resulting in Barry’s critics labeling him “Mayor for Life.”

Marion Barry dodged death at various times, including a gunshot wound to his chest in 1977 and having to have a kidney transplant in February 2009. He also has gone through several divorces and girlfriends and Barry plead guilty in 2005 to misdemeanor charges for not filing tax returns from 1999 through 2004. Barry received the kidney he needed to continue living from a political donor. The last time Marion Barry was re-elected was after his conviction for possessing crack cocaine.

Marion Barry would often talk about the inner war he was experiencing. His being forthright about the problems he faced and his vulnerability resonated with many of his voters. Many of them could empathize with the addictions to alcohol and drugs that Barry admitted to having and the other struggles of his life in his rise from obscurity to becoming a major political figure.

Marion Barry endeared himself with the voters of his district, in part, through the concern he felt for them and his generosity, in doing things like handing out turkeys before Thanksgiving to help feed the homeless and hungry. Barry would also try to find jobs for them and he became an advocate for the poor in his district.

Marion Barry was born on March 6, 1936, the the small Mississippi town of Itta Bena. His parents were Marion and Mattie Berry and his father was a sharecropper. After his father’s death, Berry was raised in Memphis, Tennessee.

Marion earned his nickname of “Shep” when he was an undergraduate student at LeMoyne College. The nickname referred to Soviet propagandist Dmitri Shepilov because of Berry’s support of the growing civil rights movement. Barry was so influenced by Shepilov he used his last name as his middle name.

Marion Berry left school just short of earning his doctorate to work in the civil rights movement. This led to berry becoming the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee’s first national chairman in 1960. The committee sent people into Southern states to get black voters registered.

His work with the committee brought Marion Berry eventually to Washington, DC, where he led rallies and joined in bus system boycotts. His political activism gained him enough exposure and enough of a following that he was first elected as the mayor of Washington, DC, in 1978.

The country was shocked when Marion Berry was seen across America in a videotape the FBI made as a part of a sting operation in 1990 that appeared to show Berry smoking crack cocaine with a female friend in a Washington hotel room. Though Berry was charged with numerous counts, he was just convicted of one, on drug possession.

After serving a six-month sentence, Marion Berry decided to attempt making a political comeback. He won a council seat in 1992, and that helped him win re-election as the mayor of Washington, DC, in 1994, for the fourth time.

Marion Barry died at the age of 78 at a local Washington, DC, hospital. He was married four times. He had one son, Marion Christopher Barry, who survives him. Though Berry was a controversial mayor, he was also a beloved one by many of his constituents, and he was an important figure in the civil rights movement as well as being an advocate for the poor.

Written By Douglas Cobb

Sources:
Guardian Liberty Voice
Washington Post
Boston.com
Photo by Talk Radio News Service – Creativecommons Flickr License

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