Marion Barry

From Academic Kids

For the U.S. Representative from Arkansas with a similar name, see Marion Berry.

Marion Shepilov Barry, Jr. (born March 6, 1936) served as Democratic mayor of Washington, D.C. from 1979 to 1991. He was forced to leave office during his third term as a result of a drug arrest, but afterward again elected to the D.C. council and ultimately to the mayoralty, serving a fourth term from 1995 to 1999.


Early life and activism

Barry was born in Itta Bena, Mississippi. He grew up in Memphis, Tennessee and graduated from LeMoyne College (now LeMoyne-Owen College) in 1958. Afterwards he joined the American civil rights movement during a movement to eliminate racial segregation of bus passengers, and was elected the first chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). He abandoned his graduate chemistry studies at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, Tennessee for his new duties. During his time leading SNCC, Barry heavily lobbied against racial segregation and discrimination.

Washington, D.C. political career

In 1965, Barry moved to Washington, D.C. to open a local chapter of SNCC where he was heavily involved in coordinating peaceful street demonstrations. He served on the first city school board to implement school board elections, in 1971, and served as Board president during his tenure. He was elected a member of Washington's first elected city council in 1974, and while serving as a council member, he became chair of the Committee on Finance and Review.

While serving on the D.C. city council in 1977, Barry was shot attempting to defend the District Building, threatened by radical Hanafi Muslim terrorists. Barry was shot near his heart during a two-day crisis in which hostages were held by the terrorists, and which was finally defused by the FBI, and Muslim ambassadors.

In 1978, Barry was elected mayor of Washington, DC. He was only the second person elected to this position. Barry was elected to three consecutive terms as mayor and held the position for over a decade.

After being released from prison, Barry was successful in his 1992 bid for a city council seat. In 1994, Barry was elected to his fourth and final term as mayor, serving until January 1999.

From 1997 onwards, the federally imposed Control Board reduced Barry's power to allocate and manage funds for city projects. The mayor was also involved in further scandals, eventually leading to his decision not to run for a fifth term in office. He was succeeded by Anthony A. Williams, the former Chief Financial Officer of the Control Board. After leaving office, Barry performed consulting work for an investment banking firm.

On June 12, 2004 Barry announced that he was running in the Democratic primary for the Ward 8 council seat, a position he held before becoming mayor. Barry defeated the incumbent councilmember, Sandy Allen, on September 14, 2004, by a margin of at least 60–25%, setting him up to win the Ward 8 council seat in the November general election by a margin of 96–4%.

Legal problems

Barry was arrested smoking crack cocaine with a woman in a sting operation at the Vista Hotel by the FBI and D.C. police on January 18, 1990 for crack use and posession. The incident – played over and over on cable television – produced what is perhaps the most memorable quote of Barry's long career: "The bitch set me up."

Barry was charged with three counts of felony perjury, 10 counts of misdemeanor drug possession, and one misdemeanor count of conspiracy to possess cocaine; however, he was convicted only of a single misdemeanor count of possessing cocaine in November 1989. He was acquitted on one possession charge and a mistrial was declared on the 12 remaining charges.

As a result of his arrest and the ensuing trial, Barry was forced to step down from his position as mayor. In the midst of his campaign for a city council seat, Barry was sentenced to a six-month federal prison term in October 1990.

In 2002 Barry began a campaign for an at-large city council seat. But the bid was aborted after the U.S. Park Police alleged they had found small amounts of cocaine and marijuana in Barry's car. Barry has insisted the police planted the drugs. Barry's paranoia about being accused of drug crimes was so strong that in one instance, after a car of his was stolen and subsequently recovered by the police, Barry sold it without ever driving it again, claiming he feared police could have planted drugs in the car.

Health problems

In 1995, Barry was successfully treated for prostate cancer at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland.

External links


Preceded by:
Walter Washington
Mayor of Washington, D.C.
Succeeded by:
Sharon Pratt Kelly
Preceded by:
Sharon Pratt Kelly
Mayor of Washington, D.C.
Succeeded by:
Anthony A. Williams

Template:End boxpl:Marion Barry


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