Washington, D.C. Says Goodbye To A Beloved First Lady

Published February 11, 2008

UPDATED Sept. 14, 2007 – “Classy, elegant, courageous” were just a few of the words used to described the former First Lady of Washington Effi Barry.  The Washington National Cathedral in northwest Washington was filled with family, friends and elected officials.

Barry was eulogized by her son Christopher, her ex-husband Marion Barry, colleagues and friends.  Christopher, 27, spoke of “celebrating” the life of his mother. “I don’t feel like she left me…instead of loosing a friend I gained an angel,” he said. 

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Former Mayor Barry reflected on their good and bad times together characterizing her as a “courageous strong Black woman.”  In a lighter moment he joked, “Incidentally Effi I was on time,” he said. 

The former First Ladies’ legacy will continue; councilmember David Catania plans to continue her work encouraging folks to become donors.  Friday they set up an information table at the repast.  Councilmember Vincent Gray presented legislation to dedicate the cities HIV/AIDS prevention program in her name, and D.C. Mayor Adrian Fentry dedicated Friday as “Effi Barry Day.”

Described as a beloved mother, a dedicated public servant and a loyal friend  – she’ll be missed.  

In her son’s words, “She wasn’t trying to be heard or seen…she left my cup full.” 

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Barry, who stood in the public eye much more than she would have liked during the sex and drug scandals that plagued her mayor-husband, Marion Barry, died last Thursday morning at John Hopkins University Hospital where she was receiving treatment for a rare form of leukemia. 

D.C. Councilman Marion Barry says Effi was a life friend and their son, Christopher, was at her side when she passed.

"Effi was my cherished friend, a wonderful mother to my only son, Christopher, and a beautiful human being. Effi was born to serve and help others, but long after her service to this city was done, as first lady, she continued to give even more of herself in an effort to help those who could not help themselves," said Marion Barry. "Chief among her many accomplishments, was her successful effort to secure city funding for HIV and AIDS awareness programs for the poor. She was a genuinely caring person with a huge heart. I feel fortunate to have had her as a part of my life for so many years. It is as if a part of me has left this world today as well."

Ms. Barry divorced Marion in 1990, shortly after he became a euphemism for public, political disgrace when he was captured on a police surveillance videotape smoking crack in a hotel room with woman other than his wife.

Effie met Marion in 1976 at a bicentennial celebration in Southwest Park, The Washington Post reports.

“At the time she was apolitical and had no idea that he was the former head of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and a D.C. Council member,” the paper reported. They married two years later, after Barry announced he was running for mayor.

Following their divorce, she left D.C. and headed to Hampton University, where she taught health and sex education. Hampton is where she had earned a bachelor’s in home economics; she received a master's degree in public health from City College of New York.

She is survived by a son, Christopher Barry and her mother, Polly Harris.

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Written by BET-Staff

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