There are a myriad of adjectives that can be used to describe former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, flamboyant, maddening, outspoken, and beloved are just a few. Marion Barry outshone every politician in the 40-year history of D.C. politics. But for many, his legacy was not defined by the accomplishments and failures of his four terms as mayor and long service on the D.C. Council.
Instead, Barry will be remembered by some for a single night in a downtown Washington hotel room and the grainy video that showed him lighting a crack pipe in the company of a much-younger woman. When FBI agents burst in, he referred to her with an expletive. She "set me up," Barry said.
Barry died Sunday at 78. His family said in statement that Barry died shortly after midnight at the United Medical Center, after having been released from Howard University Hospital on Saturday. No cause of death was given, but his spokeswoman LaToya Foster said he collapsed outside his home.
TMZ's headline read "CRACK MAYOR DEAD AT 78." While TMZ never has been and probably never will be known for tact, and good taste, one thing is for sure, they have done the impossible and sank lower than ever before. There aren't too many things as disgusting, and utterly repulsive as defaming the deceased. Despite the fact that his mistake on one infamous night has forever tarnished is reputation, Mr. Barry's good deeds far out weight his faux pas. He was a tireless advocate for those who lived in DC which is still among one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country. A tireless champion of the poor, disenfranchised, and down trodden who created a youth summer employment problem, giving many of the youth in D.C. A sense of purpose, and responsibility. This champion of the people of D.C. so endeared himself to the citizenry that they elected him even after he was caught on tape in a compromising situation, arrested, and convicted. They knew Marion Barry the man, unlike many of us who knew nothing of him before the incriminating footage shown world wide. The people that Barry held dear to his heart knew that the man he was could night be defined by one mistake in one hotel room on one night. They knew him far better than those of us who chose to judge his sin as being worse than our own rather than different than our own. The sum total of a man is not his mistakes, but his ability to triumph over them, in spite of them.