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Former Washington Mayor Marion Barry Dies

  • VOA News

FILE - Marion Barry, former mayor of Washington, D.C., and a current city council member, has died. He's shown in March 2014.

FILE - Marion Barry, former mayor of Washington, D.C., and a current city council member, has died. He's shown in March 2014.

Marion Barry, Jr., a sharecropper’s son and civil rights activist who became a maddening and beloved mayor of Washington, D.C., has died.

Barry was 78 years old. He died early Sunday morning in a Washington hospital.

He suffered from a string of health problems including diabetes and prostate cancer.

Barry was a few credits short of a doctorate in chemistry in the early 1960s when he decided to work full time in the civil rights movement.

He was first elected Washington's mayor in 1978. Voters returned him to that office three more times, winning him the nickname "Mayor for Life". Over his time in office, Barry racked up a string of accomplishments - and failures.

In his early years, Barry gained recognition as a champion for the poor, instituting a host of social programs including summer jobs for youth and food programs for the elderly.

In his later terms, mismanagement would lead to Barry losing control over the capital city's finances to a financial control board instituted by Congress.

During his third term in office, Barry's reputation was sullied by reports of multiple affairs as well as drug and alcohol abuse.

In January 1990, the married Barry was caught on videotape during a police undercover operation smoking crack cocaine with a woman who was not his wife. The videotape of the mayor's hotel encounter and arrest made international headlines.

Barry was sentenced to six months in prison for drug possession.

After his release, Barry moved to one of the city's most impoverished areas and was elected to Washington's city council, running under the slogan "I may not be perfect, but I am perfect for Washington."

Poet Maya Angelou said that "Marion Barry changed America with his unmitigated gall to stand up in the ashes of where he had fallen and come back to win."

Two year later, he won his fourth and final term as mayor. He was serving again on the city council at the time of his death.

Barry was married four times and had one son.

Material for this report came from AP.

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