Former DC Mayor Marion Barry leaves behind a complicated legacy

World Today

“Mayor for life” Council Member Marion Barry (R) makes spirited remarks during a DCVote news conference to oppose the “Second Amendment Enforcement Act” which would strip DC of local control over its gun laws on May 4, 2010 at city hall in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO / Tim Sloan (Photo credit should read TIM SLOAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Former Mayor Marion Berry, a Washington D.C. icon, has died at the age of 78. His four terms as mayor were a mix of triumphs and controversy. For a look back on his life, CCTV America’s Jim Spellman reports from Washington.

Marion Barry was born in 1936 in the rural state of Mississippi. He came to Washington D.C. in 1965 during the height of the civil rights era where he worked with leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In 1978, Barry was elected mayor. He started an influential summer jobs program for young people and began development projects that would help turn around the struggling district.

He was reelected twice in the 1980s. It was during this time that the use of crack cocaine became widespread in Washington, D.C. along with a wave of violence that earned the nation’s capital the nickname “Murder Capital” of the U.S.

Ultimately, it would be crack cocaine that knocked Barry down, but not out of politics. He was caught by the FBI smoking crack in 1990 and went on to serve six months in prison.

Once released, he began an unlikely political comeback as was elected again as mayor for one term in 1994.

Then to the city council in 2004, he continued to struggle with addiction and faced numerous allegations of corruption but maintained political support in Washington, especially among African Americans.

“Of course we had regrets. A lot of regrets but I don’t want to dwell on the regrets. I’ll let y’all do that. I’ll dwell on what I done to help a lot of people,” Barry said.

Barry, who was 78 when he died on Sunday, will probably always have competing legacies with some remembering him only as the D.C. mayor caught smoking crack and others as a flawed man who did his best for Washington.

Former DC Mayor Marion Barry leaves behind a complicated legacy

Former Mayor Marion Berry, a Washington D.C. icon, has died at the age of 78. His four terms as mayor were a mix of triumphs and controversy. For a look back on his life, CCTV America's Jim Spellman reports from Washington.