Ward 8 D.C. Council member and former Mayor Marion Barry died at the age of 78 early Sunday morning.
Barry died at United Medical Center, less than 24 hours after he was released from a brief stay at Howard University Hospital on Saturday, the Washington Post reported. D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray ordered flags be flown at half-mast on Sunday in the District.
“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 a statement. “He loved the District of Columbia and so many Washingtonians loved him.”
Gray said he would work with the D.C. Council and Barry’s family to “plan official ceremonies worthy of a true statesman of the District of Columbia.”
Barry served four terms as D.C. mayor, winning election in 1978, 1982, 1986 and again in 1994 after serving six months in prison for drug possession. Barry had been at the center of an FBI investigation in which he was caught on video smoking crack cocaine in a hotel room.
As mayor, he brought a summer jobs programs for young people to the District, funded senior citizen centers and beefed up employment program that benefited the city’s largely African-American population.
Barry was serving his second term as Ward 8 council member since leaving the mayor’s office for the last time in 1999. He planned to hand out turkeys Tuesday to those in need ahead of Thanksgiving, an annual tradition.
Before he became one of D.C.’s most colorful and infamous mayors, Barry came to D.C. in the 1960s at the height of the civil rights movement and became the first chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, a role that sparked his political career in the city.
D.C. Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser also commemorated Barry, calling him “an example to me and so many others.”
“Mayor Marion Barry gave a voice to those who need it most and lived his life in service to others. I – along with all Washingtonians – am shocked and deeply saddened by his passing,” Bowser said in a statement.
- Jeremy Diamond contributed to this report.