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Born in Leflore County, Mississippi. 3rd of 10 kids.
Father died when he was 4, mother moved family to Memphis, Tennessee.
Started working young-
First jobs: picking cotton, delivering and selling newspapers, bagging groceries
In high school, he worked as a waiter at the American Legion post
Boy Scouts - Eagle Scout
Attended LeMoyne College- graduated 1958
While attending LeMoyne College he supported the civil rights movement
He criticized a college trustee for remarks he felt were demeaning to African Americans, which nearly caused his expulsion
Masters of science in organic chemistry- Fisk University.
Member of Alpha Phi Alpha (first Greek-letter fraternity founded by African Americans)
Joined American civil rights movement trying to eliminate racial segregation of bus passengers.
Elected first chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
Began a doctoral program at University of Kansas,but quit the program when white parents opposed him of tutoring their children
Continued at University of Tennessee. (only black in his class)
There too he was prohibited from tutoring white children, and his wife was not allowed to work at the school. He quit the program in favor of his new duties at SNCC.
Moved to Washington, D.C. in 1965. Opened local chapter of SNCC ( heavily involved in coordinating peaceful street demonstrations as well as a boycott to protest bus fare increases.
He also served as leader of Free D.C. Movement, supporting increased home rule for the District.
He quit SNCC in 1967, when H. Rap Brown became chairman of the group.
Two years later, Barry and Mary Treadwell cofounded Pride, Inc., a federally funded program to provide job training to unemployed black men. Barry and Treadwell married in 1972, and separated five years later.
Marion Barry married Effi Slaughter, his third wife.The couple had one son, Christopher Barry. The Barrys divorced in 1993
Barry's mother, Mattie Cummings, died at age 92 on November 8, 2009.
While serving on the D.C. city council, he was shot on March 9, 1977, by radical Hanafi Muslim terrorists (from a breakaway sect of the Nation of Islam) when they overran the District Building.
Having credentials as an activist, legislator, and "hero" in a hostage crisis, as well as an early endorsement from the Washington Post, Barry followed to become mayor when Washington's first elected mayor, Walter Washington, fell out of political favor in the 1978 election.
Barry won the Democratic primary election against his main rivals Mayor Washington and council chairman Sterling Tucker in a vote so close that final tally was in doubt for over two weeks.
He went on to defeat his Republican opponent Arthur Fletcher and two other minor candidates in a landslide general election in November.
He was only the second person elected to the position of mayor.
Barry in Politics
During is first 4 years he:
increased efficiency in city administration and government services, in particular the sanitation department
instituted his signature summer jobs program, in which summer employment was made available to every school-age resident.
straightened the city’s chaotic finances and attacked the deficit by introducing spending controls and laying off 10% of the city’s workforce
Each year of his first term saw a budget surplus of at least $13 million
Unemployment rose dramatically during his first administration, as did crime rates, in part because many of his layoffs were centered in the police department (with 1,500 terminations by 1981).
The city's deficit was a constant problem as well: Barry had recalculated the Washington Administration's claim of a $41 million surplus and found that the city was actually $285 million in debt
End of his first term, first reports of his cocaine use at downtown nightclubs. [
In 1982, Barry faced re-election. In the primary election held September 14, 1982, Barry won by a landslide, with over 58% of the vote, t hen went on to win 82% of the vote in the November 11 general election against Republican candidate E. Brooke Lee.
Barry’s second term was much more troublesome than his first.- government spending skyrocketed.
Major scandal caught up to the mayor in his second term. Rumors and press reports of womanizing and of alcohol and drug abuse; in particular, stories abounded of his cocaine use in the city’s nightclubs and red-light district.
In 1984, Barry’s onetime lover Karen Johnson was convicted of cocaine possession and contempt of court for refusing to testify to a grand jury about Barry’s drug use.
Nevertheless, Barry’s second four years in office had some high points, including the District’s entry into the open bond market with Wall Street’s highest credit rating, and Barry’s nomination speech for Jesse Jackson at the 1984 Democratic Convention.
By his third term, however, Barry was openly suffering the effects of his addictions to cocaine and alcohol; he would later admit that 1987 was the year he lost control of his addiction His public appearances were marked by slurred words and glassy eyes
His ability to function as mayor had become so impaired that even his closest associates urged him not to run again
By late 1989, federal officials had been investigating Barry for six years on suspicion of illegal drug possession and use
On January 18, 1990, Barry was arrested with Moore in a sting operation at the Vista Hotel by the FBI for crack cocaine use and possession.
Barry was sentenced to six months in federal prison shortly before the November election and was released in April 1992.
Almost immediately upon returning to the District, he filed papers to run for the Ward 8 city council seat in that year's election. - "He May Not Be Perfect, But He's Perfect for D.C." - won 70 percent of the vote
He then went on to run for Mayor
His victory, coming after the videotaped crack use and conviction, shocked the nation, carrying front page headlines in newspapers as far away as the Los Angeles Times and Boston Globe .
Barry was sworn into office on January 2, 1995, and was almost immediately confronted with a financial crisis. 1996 deficit between $700 million and $1 billion.
Barry declined to run for a fifth term in office in June 1998
After leaving office, Barry performed consulting work for an investment banking firm.
He ran for the Democratic primary for the Ward 8 council seat. He won 95% of the votes
In July 2007, Marion Barry was chosen as one of fifty wax statues to debut in the Washington D.C. franchise of Madame Tussauds Wax Museum. Barry was chosen by a majority of Washington residents and tourists from Tussauds' "Top 10 Wish List," in a contest that pitted him against Cal Ripken , Al Gore , Denzel Washington , Carl Bernstein , Halle Berry , Martin Sheen , Marilyn Monroe , Nancy Reagan and Oprah Winfrey .
Barry ran for reelection in 2008 and easily held off all five challengers in the Democratic primary.