D.C. mourns the loss of former mayor and councilmember Marion Barry

Early Sunday morning, United Medical Center announced the passing of former D.C. mayor and councilmember Marion Barry. He died at the age of 78 due to heart complications. Given the nickname “mayor-for-life”, Barry served 15 years as a D.C. councilmember and was elected four separate times as the city’s chief executive.

Barry, the son of a Mississippi sharecropper, started his political career as a student civil rights activist in the 1960s before he was elected to the D.C. school board and D.C. Council. The first of his three consecutive terms as the District’s second elected mayor began in 1979. Throughout his time in office, he was known for his pro-business policies, civic programs for youth and senior citizens, and efforts to open positions within the city government to African-American professionals, who had previously been excluded.

Despite his infamous encounter with the FBI and Washington police in 1990 over a law enforcement surveillance tape that captured him smoking crack cocaine, Barry managed to make a major political comeback. Two years after the incident, he won back the Ward 8 council seat, and in 1994, he was elected D.C. mayor for a fourth time.

After D.C. faced a substantial deficit and had itsfinancial power striped by Congress, Barry decided not to run for a fifth term as mayor. He returned to political life in 2002 when he was elected Ward 8 Councilmember once again and held this position until his death.

“Marion was a political genius, community outreach expert, champion of the over-looked and the left-out while emphasizing the inclusion of everyone. He was a warm compassionate human being and proud public servant who was the only D.C. politician with coattails,” fellow Councilmember Anita Bonds said in a public statement.

“While his history of accomplishments began decades prior to his entry onto the DC political scene representing the SNCC in the 1960s, even today, he remains the city’s favorite politician and truly loved by most, and many across the nation.”

Video: ABC 7 news

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