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Marion Barry, 4-Term Mayor and D.C. Councilmember, Dies at 78

A "Thank You" card to Marion Barry sits on the steps of the John A. Wilson Building, DC's City Hall, on Nov. 23. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
A "Thank You" card to Marion Barry sits on the steps of the John A. Wilson Building, DC's City Hall, on Nov. 23. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Former D.C. Mayor and Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry died Sunday at the age of 78.  

Barry’s family did not indicate the cause of his death in a statement released Sunday morning, but said Barry passed away at United Medical Center early Sunday after having previously been hospitalized at Howard University Hospital on Saturday.  

“Marion was not just a colleague but also was a friend with whom I shared many fond moments about governing the city,” Mayor Vincent C. Gray said in a statement. “He loved the District of Columbia and so many Washingtonians loved him.” Barry was first elected to the D.C. Council in 1974, the first election after Congress established D.C.’s legislative branch in the 1973 Home Rule Act. In 1977, Barry ran for mayor and served three terms before being arrested for cocaine possession in 1990 and sentenced to six months in prison. But he made a political comeback, winning a seat on the city council in 1992. He went on to be elected for a fourth term as D.C. mayor in 1994.  

After leaving office after the 1998 election, the fiery politician ventured back into public life when he successfully ran again for the city council in 2004. He represented Ward 8 ever since.  

Marion Barry interviewed about his book at an event in D.C. He Died Sunday at age 78. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Barry was interviewed about his book at an event in D.C. in June. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

In early November, Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser named Barry as a member of her transition team. Bowser said in a statement released on Twitter Sunday, “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 this passing, and we send our condolences to Cora Masters Barry, Chris Barry, and the entire Barry family. He has been a part of my family for decades, and he will continue to be an example to me and so many others.”  

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., also remembered Barry in a statement released Sunday morning.  

“From my earliest encounter with Marion Barry, when he was the first chair of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee until I came back home and found him mayor of my home town, I have seen Marion take hold and write his signature boldly on his own life and times and on the life of the nation’s capital,” Norton said. “Many took his struggle to personify in some way their own, endearing him and making him a larger-than-life figure as he became a creator of post-home-rule D.C.”  

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