Marion Barry at Muriel Bowser's Victory Party, November 2014
Marion Barry at Muriel Bowser's Victory Party, November 2014

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To hear Herman Foushee tell it, Marion Barry spent one of the last moments of his life fretting about the kidney donation nonprofit that bears the mayor-for-life’s name.

“I want you to be the treasurer of the foundation because I know I can trust you,” Barry told Foushee in a phone call shortly before his death, according to an affidavit filled out by Foushee. “Niggers in D.C. steal and I know you will not steal from the foundation.”

This account serves Foushee’s interests—he’s the treasurer of the now hotly contested foundation, after all. But Barry did have good reason to fret about the fate of the Barry Dickens Kidney Foundation. A year after Barry’s widow first sued the foundation for using his image, the fight over what Barry wanted has divided some of the people who were closest to him.

Barry’s estranged wife-turned-widow Cora Masters Barry sued the foundation in April 2015, six months after Barry’s death. As the executor of Barry’s estate, she accused the foundation and founder Kim Dickens, who gave Barry a kidney in 2009, of using Barry’s likeness without permission.

“This is something that Marion created and put me into, so to suggest that I created this and this is my doing is just ludicrous,” Dickens says.

Since then, though, the lawsuit has pulled in more than Barry’s widow and kidney donor. In court filings made earlier this year, Dickens’ defense attorney promised a long list of witnesses who can testify that Barry wanted to be associated with the kidney foundation. There’s Bernadette Tolson, Barry’s chief of staff when he held the Ward 8 Council seat, and Dr. Clive Callender, who managed Barry’s transplant.

Most notably, Dickens has backup from Sandy Bellamy, Barry’s longtime girlfriend. In Bellamy’s affidavit, she says Barry wanted Dickens to run the foundation. (Bellamy’s no stranger to tangling with Masters Barry. She recently criticized Barry’s estate on Twitter for failing to buy a headstone for his grave.)

“[Barry] wanted the Foundation to be a part of his living legacy and his legacy after he passed,” Bellamy says in her affidavit.

Late last month, a D.C. Superior Court judge ruled that the estate can control Barry’s posthumous image—but that it doesn’t necessarily control the foundation’s use of Barry. That sets the stage for even more acrimony in the fight over what Barry really wanted.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery