November 27, 2014


By Kenneth D. Miller 

Assistant Managing Editor




Former Washington, District of Columbia Mayor Marion Barry long recognized for being video taped while smoking crack cocaine, but who also will leave a lasting legacy for his commitment to his Black constituents has died. He was 78 years old.


Barry was arrested in an FBI sting operation and served six months in federal prison, but was still reelected to the City Council in 1992 and then as mayor in 1994 and served until 1999.


Despite his history of political and legal controversies, Barry was a popular and influential figure in the local political scene of Washington, D.C., being hailed as "Mayor for life," a designation that remained long after Barry left the mayoralty.


During the 1960s, he was involved in Nashville Student Movement protest of racial discrimination and later became the first chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.


He was the first prominent civil rights activist to become chief executive of a major American city and this week the president, Congress­woman Maxine Waters and Sentinel Publisher Danny J. Bakewell Sr, who knew Barry, fondly remembered him.


“Michelle and I were saddened to hear of the passing of Marion Barry. Marion was born a sharecropper's son, came of age during the Civil Rights movement, and became a fixture in D.C. politics for decades. As a leader with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Marion helped advance the cause of civil rights for all. During his decades in elected office in D.C., he put in place historic programs to lift working people out of poverty, expand opportunity, and begin to make real the promise of home rule. Through a storied, at times tumultuous life and career, he earned the love and respect of countless Washingtonians, and Michelle and I extend our deepest sympathies to Marion's family, friends and constituents,” said President Obama in a statement.


Barry gave the presidential nomination speech for Jesse Jackson at the 1984 Democratic National Con­vention.


“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Marion Barry, a longtime friend and a man who helped transform the city of Washington, D.C.,” said Waters.


“As a young man, Barry was a civil rights leader who championed the rights of Washington’s often overlooked residents. He rose to become one of the most influential politicians in District of Columbia history, serving four terms as mayor, 15 years as councilmember and president of the Board of Education.


“Mayor Barry will always be remembered for the most expansive youth jobs program in the United States, where summer employment was guaranteed for every school-age resident. I will always fondly remember beating Marion handedly on the tennis court, and our many warm interactions over the years. My thoughts and deepest condolences go out to his son Christopher, and the entire Barry family at this time.”


Bakewell Sr., a civil rights leader who fought for racial equality along with Barry was saddened by his loss.


National Newspapers Publishers Association President Benjamin Chavis credited Barry with the success of he 1995 Million Man March, which was held in the nation’s capital.


“The Honorable Marion Barry was a freedom fighting mayor of D.C. He was the best mayor of our nation’s capitol, ever,” said Chavis. “We mourn his passing, but celebrate what it means to be a freedom fighter for African American people and all African people.”


“Marion was truly a man for all seasons. He had some dark days, but was always resilient. While he may be remembered as Mayor for Life, he surely was a champion of the people for life and he understood the struggle of Black people and was committed to sacrifice for their advancement. He was my friend and I will miss him,” said Bakewell.

Category: News