Marion Barry Biography

Marion Barry is an American Democratic politician, who served as the first president of the SNCC during the Civil Rights Movement. Explore this biography to learn more about his childhood, works, achievements, life and timeline.

Quick Facts

Birthday: March 6, 1936 Black Celebrities Born on March 6

Nationality: American

Famous: Black Leaders Political Leaders

Age: 84 Years, 84 Year Old Males

Sun Sign: Pisces

Also Known As: Marion Shepilov Barry Jr.

Born in: Itta Bena, Mississippi, U.S.

political ideology: Democratic


Spouse/Ex-: Blantie Evans (m. 1962–1964), Cora Masters (m. 1994–2003), Effi Slaughter (m. 1978–1993), Mary M. Treadwell (m. 1972–1977)

father: Marion Barry

mother: Mattie Cummings

children: Lalanya Masters Abner (stepdaughter), Marion Christopher Barry, Tamara Masters Wilds (stepdaughter)

Ideology: Democrats

U.S. State: Mississippi, African-American From Mississippi

More Facts

education: LeMoyne College (now LeMoyne-Owen College Fisk University

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At a time when African-Americans were not permitted to voice their sentiments related to racism and equality, Marion Barry became one of those foot warriors and instruments of a new revolution. Any intimation of opposition was usually met with brute force, lynching, beatings and sometimes, even cool-blooded murder. Dr. Martin Luther King and his foot soldiers, including Barry, began boldly defying dogmatists and racists around America, head on. Today, he is a successful American Democratic politician and is best known for his role in the civil rights movement. While studying for his doctorate at Tennessee University, he became a founding member of the ‘Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’ (SNCC) and was made its national chairman and president. For his contributions towards the betterment of his people, Barry was also elected as the mayor of the District of Columbia, before he was sentenced for six months in prison after being sentenced on a drugs charge. After serving as a business organizer, to a school board associate and to mayor, for over two decades, Barry has typified all that is good and evil about urban politics in the United States of America.

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Childhood & Early Life
  • After the 1968 Washington D.C. riots, Barry arranged for provisions for his fellow African-Americans. He also started initiating change in perception towards black people in Washington D.C. by becoming the board member of the city’s Economic Development Committee.
  • In 1971, he announced his candidacy for at-large member of the school board in 1971 and defeated his opponent with 58% votes. After being seated as the board member the following year, he organized the school’s finances and advocated a larger budget for higher education.
  • In 1974, Barry was elected to Washington’s first elected city council and while serving as the council member, he was nominated as the chairman of the District of Columbia Committee - a position he served till 1979.
  • He was shot on March 9, 1977 by the fundamentalists, Hanafi Muslims. After a quick recovery, he fell out of political favor in the 1978 election, but won the Democratic mayoral primary election, defeating Arthur Fletcher.
  • In the first four years of his tenure, he brought changes in the sanitation of the city, stabilized the city’s finances and made summer employment available for graduates. In his first term itself, the US government saw a surplus, but the unemployment and the crime sky-rocketed.
  • In 1982, he ran for his second term and won with over 58% of the votes cast in his favor. In this period, he assuaged the fiscal problems and brought a drastic change to curb the crime rates in the city. However, the following year, he struggled with a $110 million deficit in the city’s finances.
  • After being elected for a third term as the mayor in 1986, his health began deteriorating due to consumption of cocaine and alcohol. He was investigated by officers for six years on suspicion of illegal drug possession and on January 18, 1990, he was arrested in a sting operation by the FBI for the possession of ‘crack’. This was broadcasted live on television and as a result of this public humiliation, he decided not to seek re-election as mayor.
  • He was released from prison in 1992 and two months later, filed papers to run for the Ward 8 city council seas in that year’s election.
  • Barry formally announced his candidacy for mayor on May 21, 1994. He once again defeated his adversary, winning 70% of the votes and was formally re-elected as D.C.’s mayor for the fourth term from 1995 to 1999.
  • He declined to run for the fifth term and was eventually succeeded by city CFO, Antony A. Williams.
  • After he left office as the mayor, he started working as a consultant for an investment banking firm and soon announced that he will be running in the Democratic primary for the Ward 8 council seat, which he later won. After successful four year tenure, he filed for re-election once again in 2008.
Major Works
  • As the mayor of Washington D.C., Marion Barry canvassed dynamically to cut government waste, lessen infant mortality, provide accommodation and employment for the city’s underprivileged and also make occupation available for all African-American graduates. During his tenure as the mayor, he made sure that Washington regained its fiscal condition.
Personal Life & Legacy
  • Marion Barry married Mary Treadwell, who was the co-founder of ‘Pride, Inc.’ in 1972. They separated five years after their marriage.
  • He got married to Effi Slaughter in 1978 and divorced her in 1993. The couple had one son, Christopher Barry.
  • In 2009, this American Democratic politician and the mayor Washington D.C., was charged with stalking.

See the events in life of Marion Barry in Chronological Order

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