Ward 8 Councilmember and four-term Mayor Marion Barry died around midnight Saturday night at United Medical Center, according to a statement from his family.
Barry had recently been released from Howard University Hospital. At a press conference, Barry’s family said he collapsed Saturday as he was walking to his house.
In a statement, Vince Gray said he would help organize “official ceremonies worthy of a true statesman of the District of Columbia.”
“Marion was not just a colleague but also was a friend with whom I shared many fond moments about governing the city,” Gray said in his statement. “He loved the District of Columbia and so many Washingtonians loved him.”
Look for more coverage on Washington City Paper today and this week, obviously, of the death of one of the District’s most iconic personalities and influential politicians. For the moment, it’s worth another look at this 2012 cover story by former LL Alan Suderman on Barry’s last reelection campaign in Ward 8:
Picking up steam, Barry tells the crowd what it already knows: He is a once-in-a lifetime politician, a transcendent figure whose fate hasn’t been to simply govern or legislate, but to “lift the spirits of the people.”
“There’ll probably be another 40, 50, 60 years before anybody in this city could serve four terms as mayor,” he says. “They don’t have what it takes.” He may be right. It’s a truth that at least partly explains the lack of interest in the campaign: Barry’s re-election is seen as a fait accompli.
But there’s another explanation as to why so few are watching Barry, now 76, embark on yet another season of rallies, endorsements, and evocations of the glory days. Outside the gym is a city that passed him by a long time ago. Even Ward 8, long home to the population Barry calls “the last, the least, and the lost,” is different. This year, for perhaps the first time, gentrification has become an issue there.
Memories of Barry’s four mayoral terms are everywhere. But his impact in the last eight years as councilmember has been faint. Even the recent scandals are comparatively puny. The most recent Barry booboo involved an improperly registered car. Campaign events like today’s heighten the dichotomy: Barry the larger-than-life mayor is competing against Barry the not-so-important councilmember. And as much as you might want the legend to win, the councilmember keeps showing up.
Barry’s legacy is in politics, not music, but he sometimes seemed to be hinting at a career that could have been. Here’s Barry’s guest verse on Chuck Brown‘s 1987 song “Go-Go Drug Free,” too. “You better be clean when you cross the line… hey, this is harder than being mayor, man!” he rapped. (Three years later, he’d be arrested on federal drug charges.)
And here’s his rendition of “Stormy Monday” at his 76th birthday celebration at Ward 8’s Player’s Lounge, in 2012:
This post will be updated.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery