Marion Barry, the four-term Washington, D.C., mayor often referred to as the city’s “Mayor for Life,” died on Saturday night. His family did not publicize the cause of death, but the 78-year-old had suffered from diabetes, prostate cancer, and kidney problems over the years. To those outside of D.C., Barry was best known for his 1990 arrest and six-month imprisonment for crack possession, but he remained one of the capitol’s most prominent politicians even after he left the top office. (In addition to his 16 years as mayor, he served as a city councilman from 2004 until his death.)
From the New York Times:
Mr. Barry was a charismatic yet confounding politician. Admirers saw him as a Robin Hood who gave hope to poor black residents. His detractors saw a shameless rogue who almost ruined the city by stuffing its payroll with cronies and hacks and letting services decay. Indisputably, he was a political Lazarus with a gift for convincing his followers that their hopes and disappointments were his, too.
In a statement about Barry’s death, President Obama said, “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.” Or, as Barry put it himself in 1986, “I may not be perfect, but I am perfect for Washington.”