US & Canada

Marion Barry: Ex-Washington DC mayor dies at 78

Maroin Barry in March 2014 Image copyright AP
Image caption Despite his problems, Marion Barry maintained a solid following in Washington

Former Washington DC Mayor Marion Barry, who won re-election after a drug arrest, has died at the age of 78.

A Democrat, Mr Barry served three terms from 1979 to 1991 before his personal life overshadowed his politics.

He was arrested in an FBI sting operation and tried on drug charges in 1990, but was only convicted on a single count of possession.

He remained popular with many poorer African American voters, and served a final term as mayor from 1995 to 1999.

Mr Barry died overnight at a hospital in Washington, DC Council spokeswoman LaToya Foster said.

The cause of death was not disclosed, but he had kidney problems stemming from diabetes and high blood pressure.

His 1990 arrest - which came during his third term - came after he was videotaped by the FBI smoking crack in a Washington hotel room with a female friend.

During the subsequent trial jurors remained deadlocked on most counts. His conviction for drug possession led to a six-month prison sentence.

The son of a sharecropper, born in Mississippi in 1936, Mr Barry was active in the civil rights movements in Washington in the 1960s, and was first elected to the city council in 1974.

He went on to dominate Washington's politics for a quarter-century and was sometimes dubbed "Mayor for Life".

Confirming his death, the Washington Post described his personal and public life as "fraught with high drama and irony".

"He came to Washington as a champion of the downtrodden and the dispossessed and rose to the pinnacle of power and prestige," the newspaper wrote.

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