WASHINGTON — Former Washington Mayor Marion Barry is dead, a hospital spokeswoman said early Sunday. He was 78. Barry was elected four times as the city’s chief executive and was a council member for Washington’s 8th Ward at the time of his death.
His death was disclosed by Natalie Williams, a spokeswoman for United Medical Center, a public hospital in Washington.
“Marion was not just a colleague but also was a friend with whom I shared many fond moments about governing the city,” Mayor Vincent C. Gray said in a statement. “He loved the District of Columbia and so many Washingtonians loved him.”
Gray ordered flags flown over city buildings flown at half-staff.
Dogged by allegations of cocaine and alcohol abuse during his first three mayoral terms from 1979 to 1991, Barry was arrested in 1990 after a famously televised police surveillance tape showed him smoking crack in a hotel room. He was sentenced to six months in prison after a possession conviction.
More recently, he has had run-ins with the IRS over his failure to file tax returns and pay taxes. In 2006, he was suspected in separate incidents of driving under the influence and driving with a suspended license. He was found not guilty of the DUI charge, and the state said a computer glitch erroneously reported that Barry’s license had been suspended.
In 2002, police said they found “apparent” traces of marijuana and cocaine in Barry’s car but didn’t arrest him, and in 2009, he was arrested on a charge of stalking, which prosecutors later dropped.
He reclaimed his seat in the mayor’s office in 1995 and was re-elected to the City Council in 2004.
Over the summer, Barry released his autobiography, “Mayor for Life: The Incredible Story of Marion Barry, Jr.” It’s a nod to his longevity in the city politics of the capital.
“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.”