Controversial Washington ex-mayor Marion Barry dies

Former Washington mayor Marion Barry, who left office in disgrace and went to prison on drug charges only to return for a fourth term, died at a Washington hospital, a spokeswoman said Sunday. He was 78.

AFP| Last Updated: Nov 23, 2014, 16:41 PM IST

Washington: Former Washington mayor Marion Barry, who left office in disgrace and went to prison on drug charges only to return for a fourth term, died at a Washington hospital, a spokeswoman said Sunday. He was 78.

United Medical Center spokeswoman Natalie Williams confirmed the former mayor`s death, but declined to give further details.

The Washington Post, citing hospital officials, said the mayor was in cardiac arrest when he arrived at the hospital and could not be revived.

Local media said he had only just been released from another area hospital earlier in the evening after being admitted Thursday for observation, after what the local NBC affiliate reported was a urinary tract infection.

Barry had received a kidney transplant five years ago, and had also suffered from prostate cancer and diabetes.

Barry, the Mississippi-born son of a sharecropper and a leader in the civil rights movement, dominated local politics in the US capital for decades, despite repeated scandals and multiple arrests.

The most notorious incident came during his third term as mayor when he was arrested in January 1990 for crack cocaine use and possession in an FBI sting operation caught on video.

The "mayor for life" was sentenced to six months in prison, but swept back into the city`s top post in 1994.

Barry, who also served many terms on the DC Council and was head of the board of education, was able to parlay his political disgrace into a theme of redemption during the 1994 election.

More recently, in 2009, Barry, who was serving again as a city councilman, was arrested for allegedly stalking a woman.

In his early terms Barry gained recognition as a charismatic leader who used the city administration to further his ambitious social programs including jobs for the poor.

In his DC Council biography, Barry wrote that he lived by the motto "always fighting for the people."

But by his later terms Barry`s fortunes and those of the city had begun to sag. The municipal deficit ballooned, crime rose, and a close mayoral confidant was convicted for misuse of public funds.

Current Washington Mayor Vincent Gray said in a statement he would work with Barry`s family and city officials to plan official ceremonies "worthy of a true statesman of the District of Columbia."