Marion Shepilov Barry did so much to influence the District as we know it today that it’s easy to forget he ever lived anywhere else. Here’s a timeline of the life of the mayor-for-life.

  • Born March 6, 1936, in Itta Bena, Miss.
  • Moves to Memphis with his mother and siblings around 1941
  • Graduates from LeMoyne College in 1958 (now LeMoyne-Owen College); was president of the NAACP chapter there as a senior
  • Earns an M.S. in organic chemistry from Fisk University, 1960; was arrested several times as a student while participating in civil rights movement events
  • Elected first chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
  • Marries Blantie Evans, 1962
  • Begins a doctoral program in chemistry at the University of Tennessee, where he wasn’t allowed to tutor white children; quits the program to continue working for SNCC
  • Divorces Blantie Evans, 1964
  • Moves to D.C. in 1965 to open a local SNCC chapter; organizes a city bus boycott after prices were raised from 20 to 25 cents; is also a leader in the Free D.C. Movement, which advocated for home rule
  • Quits SNCC and cofounded Pride, Inc., with Mary Treadwell in 1967; the program provided job training to unemployed black men
  • Persuades Giant to donate food in the wake of the riots in 1968; drives around the city delivering food to housing projects for a week; joins the board of D.C.’s Economic Development Committee
  • Marries Mary Treadwell, 1972
  • Announces a run for at-large member of the school board; defeats Anita L. Allen in 1971

  • Unanimously elected president of the board by his fellow members, 1972
  • Elected to the D.C. Council as an at-large member after the establishment of Home Rule, 1974
  • Shot on March 9, 1977, during the two-day Hanafi Muslim siege of the District Building (now the Wilson Building)
  • Runs for mayor in the Democratic primary in 1978 with the slogan “Take a Stand”; narrowly defeats incumbent Mayor Walter Washington and Sterling Tucker; goes on to defeat Republican Arthur Fletcher in a landslide general election
  • Divorces Mary Treadwell, 1977
  • Marries Effi Slaughter, 1978
  • Wins the Democratic mayoral primary in a landslide in 1982, beating two D.C. councilmembers and a member of the Jimmy Carter administration; handily defeats Republican E. Brooke Lee in the general
  • Delivers the nominating speech for Jesse Jackson for president at the 1984 Democratic Convention, a high point for a second term fraught with financial trouble, indictments for some of his administration officials, and rumors about his own personal troubles with alcohol and drug abuse
  • Runs for a third term as mayor in 1986; faces Councilmember Carol Schwartz in the general election and wins easily, though his addiction to cocaine and alcohol became apparent early in the term
  • Presides over a series of disasters in the city, including the blizzard of 1987, which strikes while he’s watching the Super Bowl in California; crack use and homicide rates skyrocket; city services decline to the point that deaths occur because of inadaquete responses or equipment from police and emergency personnel
  • Arrested on Jan. 18, 1990, with former girlfriend (and FBI informant) Rasheeda Moore for crack cocaine use and possession; Barry is charged with three felony counts of perjury, ten counts of possession, and one misdemeanor count of conspiracy to possess cocaine
  • Convicted of just one possession incident in 1990; the jury acquits him of one other charge and hangs on the rest
  • Doesn’t seek re-election as mayor but runs an unsuccessful campaign as an independent for an at-large Council seat in 1990; is sentenced to six months in federal prison shortly before the election in November
  • Released from prison in April 1992; two months later, files papers to run for the Ward 8 Council seat
  • Defeats incumbent Wilhelmina Rolark in the Democratic primary with 70 percent of the vote
  • Divorces Effi Barry, 1993
  • Runs for another mayoral term in 1994 and wins the Democratic primary; goes on to defeat Carol Schwartz in the general election with 56 percent of the vote
  • Marries Cora Masters, 1994
  • Congress creates the District of Columbia Financial Control Board to take control of the city’s daily finances and spending; the board also holds  power to overrule mayoral fiscal decisions
  • Loses authority over nine city agencies in 1997
  • Decides not to run for a fifth term in 1998
  • Announces a run against At-Large Councilmember Phil Mendelson in 2002; decides not to run a month later, after U.S. Park Police find traces of drugs in his car
  • Announces a run for the Ward 8 Council seat in 2004; defeats incumbent Sandy Allen with 58 percent of the vote; receives 95 percent of the vote in the general
  • Handily wins re-election in 2008
  • Is stripped of all committee assignments in 2010 by a unanimous Council vote after an illicit contract Barry had awarded to then-girlfriend Donna Watts-Brighthaupt and other earmarking abuses come to light in a Special Counsel investigative report; Barry apologizes for showing “very, very poor judgment”
  • Council censures Barry in 2013 over cash gifts he’d received from city contractors, though he tells his colleagues that “those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.”
  • Dies from cardiac arrest at age 78, Nov. 23, 2014

Photos by Darrow Montgomery