Controversial former Washington DC mayor Marion Barry died today at the age of 78.
His death was announced by his family in a statement released through a spokeswoman for Barry. According to the statement, he died at the United Medical Center in Southeast Washington, after having been released from Howard University Hospital Saturday. Natalie Williams, a United Medical Center spokeswoman, said Barry arrived at the hospital around 12:30 a.m. and died at 1:46 a.m. She declined to discuss his symptoms presented or the treatment rendered. No cause was given in the family statement, but he had suffered from many health problems over the years. Mayor Vincent C. Gray said in a statement that he would work with Barry’s family and the D.C. Council to plan ceremonies worthy of a “true statesman of the District of Columbia.” In pre-dawn statements, both Gray and mayor-elect Muriel Bowser expressed sadness at Barry’s passing. Bowser was at the hospital early Sunday and gave remarks at an impromptu news conference in the hospital auditorium where more than a dozen Barry aides and supporters gathered, some of them sobbing.
Barry spent four terms as DC mayor, but his third and fourth terms were separated by a brief stretch in prison after being caught smoking crack with a former girlfriend (and FBI informant) as federal agents watched from an adjoining hotel room. Barry famously snarled, “Goddamn bitch set me up!” during his televised arrest, a line that was frequently quoted during the recent saga of former Toronto mayor Rob Ford. Barry spent the last decade as a DC city councilman.
RELATED: In 2008 Barry declared that he would vote for same-sex marriage if such a bill were to be presented to the DC City Council. However in December 2009 when the bill did arrive, Barry voted against it, saying, “All hell is going to break lose. We may have a civil war. The black community is just adamant against this.” The bill passed by a 12-1 vote. Pandemonium ensued in the council’s building after the vote and police had to remove screaming evangelicals. The city began issuing same-sex marriage licenses in March 2010.