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D.C. Honors Mayor Marion Barry

October 23, 1998

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Once dubbed ``Mayor for Life″ _ a moniker that fell into disuse upon his cocaine conviction _ Marion Barry was honored Thursday as the man who defined urban politics in the nation’s capital for three decades.

Exhibits, a star-studded concert and even school lessons about his career marked the opening of what many believe will be three months’ of good-byes for the four-term mayor who will be leaving office in January.

The concert was staged at the new 19,000-seat MCI Center, home of the Wizards basketball and Capitols hockey franchises and a hallmark of downtown revitalization in Barry’s last term. The arena ``represents his legacy and his life,″ said Cora Masters Barry, the mayor’s wife.

She said the arena’s owner, Abe Pollin, ``feels very strongly that had it not been for the mayor there would not be an MCI arena.″

Popular recording artists Boyz II Men, gospel singer Yolanda Adams and rhythm and blues artist turned Chicago commissioner Jerry Butler headlined a program featuring live and videotaped tributes. Poet Maya Angelou and actor Louis Gossett Jr. serving as masters of ceremonies for the event.

Barry, 62, is the son of a Mississippi sharecropper who became a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the civil rights movement and rose to become Washington’s second elected mayor in 1979.

In 1991 he left office in disgrace after being videotaped smoking crack cocaine in a downtown hotel. After serving a six-month prison sentence, he staged a political comeback, first winning a city council seat and then reclaiming the mayor’s office in the 1994 election.

The District of Columbia’s municipal government nearly went bankrupt before Congress stripped the mayor of most of his authority and installed a financial control board in 1995. Barry elected not to run again. Democrat Anthony Williams, a political novice but experienced budget cutter, is favored to win the mayor’s race Nov. 3 against Republican Carol Schwartz.

City officials distributed materials to teachers for presentations and discussions marking ``Mayor Barry Day″ in the schools Thursday. Some Barry critics complained they glossed over his faults and pictured Washington as a racially divided city.

``We left it to the discretion of the teachers,″ said school spokeswoman Denise Tann. She said the central office told principals and teachers to conduct the discussions in a balanced manner.

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