Former Washington Mayor Marion Barry is dead, a Washington hospital spokeswoman said early Sunday. He was 78.
Barry was elected four times as the city’s chief executive and was a council member in the District of Columbia for 15 years. The one-time leader of the city’s old Board of Education, Barry was, at one time, revered nationally as a symbol of African-American political leadership and beloved for his prowess at local politics.
He ardently promoted African-American-owned enterprises.
His recently released autobiography, “Mayor for Life: The Incredible Story of Marion Barry, Jr.,” recalls a quote that underscored Barry’s ability to spotlight inequalities in America.
“Why should blacks feel elated about seeing men walk on the moon when millions of poor blacks and whites don’t have enough money to buy food to eat on earth?” he said during President Richard Nixon’s administration.
“In Washington, I have worked hard for the people and I’ve been loved by the people,” Barry said in a July interview on CNN. “I didn’t get elected because of my name. I got elected because I work hard for the people.”
President Barack Obama said in a statement that he and first lady Michelle Obama were “saddened” to hear of Barry’s death. The President recalled that Barry was born a sharecropper’s son and came of age during the Civil Rights movement.
“As a leader with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Marion helped advance the cause of civil rights for all. During his decades in elected office in D.C., he put in place historic programs to lift working people out of poverty, expand opportunity, and begin to make real the promise of home rule,” the statement said.
“Through a storied, at times tumultuous life and career, he earned the love and respect of countless Washingtonians, and Michelle and I extend our deepest sympathies to Marion’s family, friends and constituents today.”
Watch above for Marion’s one-on-one with Sway, where he discussed his humble upbringing, moving passed the DC scandal and his impact on DC.