Divisive and flamboyant, maddening and beloved, Marion Barry outshone every politician in the 40-year history of District of Columbia self-rule. But for many, his legacy was not defined by the accomplishments and failures of his four terms as mayor and long service on the DC Council. Instead, Barry will be remembered for a single night in a downtown Washington hotel room and the grainy video that showed him lighting a crack pipe in the company of a much-younger woman. When FBI agents burst in, he referred to her with an expletive. She "set me up," Barry said. Barry died today at 78. His family said in statement that Barry died shortly after midnight at the United Medical Center, after having been released from Howard University Hospital yesterday. No cause of death was given, but a spokeswoman said he collapsed outside his home.
Speaking at a 4am press conference at United Medical Center, mayor-elect Muriel Bowser called Barry an "inspiration to so many people and a fighter for people." "Mr. Barry lived up until the minute the way he wanted to live," said Bowser, who served with Barry on the DC Council. Mayor Vincent Gray spoke with Barry's wife, Cora Masters Barry, late yesterday and shared his condolences. The couple was long estranged but never divorced. "Marion was not just a colleague but also was a friend with whom I shared many fond moments about governing the city," Gray said. "He loved the District of Columbia and so many Washingtonians loved him." Gray said that he would work with Barry's family and the Council to plan official ceremonies "worthy of a true statesman of the District of Columbia." Barry was married four times and is survived by his wife, and son Marion Christopher Barry. Earlier this year, he published Mayor for Life, notes Roll Call. (Read more Marion Barry stories.)