Former Washington Mayor, Marion Barry, has died at the age of 78.
Marion Barry is known as much for the scandal that surrounded him as for the political moves that he made during his time in office.
He is perhaps most well known for being jailed for smoking crack cocaine before making a surprising return to office.
Before his drugs conviction Barry had been one of the nation’s most promising black politicians on the scene. However, many of those in Washington now would now have a very different view of the politician while there are still those who hail him as a hero for bringing to attention the needs of impoverished parts of the city.
According to Reuters, Barry, who was serving as a city councilman, was hospitalised briefly last week and collapsed hours after being released on Saturday night. He later died at the United Medical Center in Washington, said spokeswoman Natalie Williams. The cause of death was not disclosed.
Marion Barry served three terms in office from 1979 until 1991 when he went to prison for six months but he miraculously reclaimed his position in 1995 despite his conviction.
Barry’s third term was mired by open talks of his womanising, drinking and drug use and this made him a very easy target for comedians who enjoyed highlighting his bad boy ways.
In his autobiography Barry said he was fuelled in those days by a “mix of power, attraction, alcohol, sex and drugs”.
It was in 1990 that the then married Barry met up with an ex-girlfriend in a Washington hotel. He was filmed having sex and then smoking a crack pipe and then being arrested by police and FBI agents who had been monitoring his moves.
Over his six-week trial, the woman involved in the scandal testified that she and Barry had used cocaine as many as 100 times.
According to Reuters, In sentencing Barry to six months in prison, the judge said the mayor had “given aid, comfort and encouragement to the drug culture at large and contributed to the anguish that illegal drugs have inflicted on this city in so many ways for so long”.
When he was release Marion Barry immediately started to campaign again, using the slogan: “I may not be perfect but I am perfect for Washington” and it was only two years later that he was back in office.
Marion Barry has left a strong political legacy behind, although perhaps it is not an entirely positive one.