Civil Rights Icon and "Mayor for Life of the District", Marion Barry dies

Marion Barry with US President Jimmy Carter in 1980

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Marion Barry, the prominent civil rights activist and self styled former mayor of Washington, D.C. has died. He was 78 years old.

From Cotton Picker to University Graduate and Student Civil Rights Leader.

Marion Barry was born in the segregated South, in the State of Mississippi in 1936. As a child, he was a plantation worker, picking cotton. But, he went on to graduate from Fisk University where he earned a master's degree in chemistry. As a student at Fisk University, he participated and often led sit-ins. He was arrested multiple times during these sit-ins.

It is also while at Fisk University that Barry Marion became the first chairman of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), which he cofounded in Raleigh, N.C. In 1965, he moved to Washington, D.C., where he launched a local chapter of SNCC. He then launched his political career.

A Charismatic and Popular Leader

Marion Barry's political career started with an election to the school board and then to the city council.
It is during that tenure that he started fighting, and became very known, for Washington D.C. poor, disenfranchised and mostly Blanks residents. Marion Barry then ran for Mayor of the District and won three terms as mayor. On Jan 19, 1990, he was arrested by FBI during a controversial drug and alcohol abuse incident in a Hotel in Washington, D.C. Claiming that he was framed by a former girl-friend, the jury, who believed in the framing, found him only guilty of misdemeanor. After serving a prison term, he ran a fourth time for mayor in 1994 and won.
The win earned him the title of "Mayor for Life of the District."

As a mayor of Washington, D.C, he created summer jobs programs for youths, provided home-buying assistance for the working class, and put thousands of blacks in middle- and upper-level city jobs that had once been reserved for whites.
After his fourth term as mayor, he voluntarily declined to run again for the position and instead ran for D.C. Council.
He was still serving his third term on the D.C. Council when he died.

Timeless Remembered Leader Who Cared About the People.

He will be remembered as a civil rights leader, who survived scandals, and who deeply cared about the District, the Black people and mostly importantly the poor people and the middle class in the city.

President Obama, in the statement issued on the passing of Marion Barry said:

"Michelle and I were saddened to hear of the passing of Marion Barry. 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. 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, and Michelle and I extend our deepest sympathies to Marion's family, friends and constituents today."