President Obama said he was “saddened” at the loss of D.C. political “fixture” Marion Barry, the colorful four-term former mayor who died Sunday at age 78.
Barry had diabetes and kidney disease, and the D.C. medical examiner said the cause of death was hypertensive cardiovascular disease.
He was still on the City Council representing Ward 8.
Barry kicked off the 1990s with a six-month stint in federal prison on a cocaine possession charge. An infamous hotel sting video of the bust had Barry muttering “bitch set me up” as he was hauled away in cuffs.
In 1992 he was back, running for and winning his council seat on the campaign slogan, “He may not be perfect, but he’s perfect for D.C.”
“Marion was born a sharecropper’s son, came of age during the Civil Rights movement, and became a fixture in D.C. politics for decades. As a leader with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Marion helped advance the cause of civil rights for all,” Obama said in a statement.
“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,” the president continued. “Through a storied, at times tumultuous life and career, he earned the love and respect of countless Washingtonians, and Michelle and I extend our deepest sympathies to Marion’s family, friends and constituents today.”
Obama was golfing at Lake Las Vegas in Henderson, Nev., when the news broke. Among his partners for the game was onetime Tiger Woods golf coach Butch Harmon.
D.C.’s delegate to Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), said, “From my earliest encounter with Marion Barry, when he was the first chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee until I came back home and found him mayor of my home town, I have seen Marion take hold and write his signature boldly on his own life and times and on the life of the nation’s capital.”
“Many took his struggle to personify in some way their own, endearing him and making him a larger-than-life figure as he became a creator of post-home-rule D.C.,” Norton said.
The District said the public memorial for Barry could be postponed until after Thanksgiving. Verizon Center and the Convention Center are being considered as venues.
Marion Barry’s last tweet:
Is tonight really the Scandal finale? The season just started.
— Marion S. Barry, Jr. (@marionbarryjr) November 20, 2014