We are saddened at the passing of Councilmember and former Mayor of Washington, D.C., Marion Barry. He was a civil rights activist, advocate for the people and champion for the District of Columbia. He was a leader who fought on behalf of the poor, the young, the elderly and those without a voice in government. He worked hard to provide opportunities for the underserved for more than 40 years. He was also instrumental in improving opportunities for Washington-based businesses, and his support was critical to the growth of BET. For that, we will always be grateful. During his storied life and career, he created programs that improved the lives of of residents and helped businesses to succeed, earning respect and admiration. He leaves a legacy of commitment, service and dedication to making Washington a better place. We extend our deepest sympathies to Cora Masters, Christopher Barry and the countless others whose lives he touched.
Marion Barry Jr., the civil rights activist who rose to prominence as a mayor of Washington, D.C., died early Sunday morning, the Associated Press reports. He was 78 years old. His death was confirmed in a statement released by his family. No cause of death was given, but his spokeswoman, LaToya Foster, said he collapsed outside his home. Barry had been struggling with illness for the past several years. His history of health problems included prostate cancer, a kidney transplant and diabetes. Barry also survived a bullet wound in a City Hall shootout in 1978.
The outspoken activist was one of D.C.'s most influential and controversial politicians for almost 50 years. He was the first civil rights-era leader to head a major American city, but later became infamous in 1990 after his arrest on charges of possession of cocaine. Barry was arrested for smoking crack cocaine in a hotel room with a female friend, who worked as an informant for the FBI and D.C. police. The arrest was caught on video and audio tape in one of the first political sting episodes of its kind.
Despite his controversies, Barry was recognized by the city's Black community, who saw him as a champion of the rights of the poor and disenfranchised. He rose from civil rights activist to politician when he was elected as the district's second mayor.
Born in 1936, Barry moved to D.C. in 1965 and began his decades-long work of battling segregation and racial discrimination in the nation's capital. In 1978, he became D.C.'s second mayor, serving three terms until 1990. He ran again in 1994, beating his opponent by more than 10 percentage points and earning his nickname "mayor for life."
Barry is survived by his fourth wife, Cora Masters, and his son, Marion Christopher Barry.
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