D.C.’s Next Monument Could Honor Marion Barry

Paul Schwartzman, Washington Post, November 7, 2017

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The D.C. Council on Tuesday preliminarily approved a plan to erect an 8-foot-tall bronze statue outside city hall in [Marion] Barry’s honor, placing a likeness of the District’s most famous local politician on Pennsylvania Avenue NW, a couple of blocks from the White House and on one of the city’s best-known boulevards.

For Barry’s many admirers, who recall his pugnacious advocacy, the honor is a fitting legacy for a man known to generations for civil rights battles, building the city’s black middle class, providing opportunities to minority contractors and creating a summer jobs program for District youngsters.

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As with many issues involving Barry, the idea of honoring him did not elicit universal enthusiasm, particularly for those well-acquainted with his scandals, including Joe DiGenova, the former U.S. attorney in the District who prosecuted members of Barry’s administration.

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Barry, who died in 2014 at 78, was the District’s second mayor, serving three terms from 1979 until 1991. His reputation as a political giant was tarnished when federal agents in 1990 caught him smoking crack cocaine, after which he was sentenced to six months in prison.

Following his release, he won a seat representing Ward 8 on the D.C. Council, using the slogan, “He may not be perfect, but he’s perfect for D.C.” He defeated incumbent Mayor Sharon Pratt Kelly in the 1994 Democratic primary and two years later won a fourth term as mayor. During that term, the District’s finances were taken over by the federal government.

In 2005, Barry was again elected to the D.C. Council representing Ward 8, where he lived and served until his death.

Council member Vincent C. Gray, at a recent hearing on the proposed statue, described Barry as “statesman.”

“He was also a visionary and a servant leader,” Gray said.

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Marion Barry

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