Marion Barry, who got a Masters’ degree in chemistry and began a PhD program as well in the subject, is best known nation-wide as the black mayor of DC who got caught in a drug sting.
Fewer people (except probably the black population of Washington, DC) recall him as an activist against racism and for Home Rule in a city that remains without any representation in Congress, which still retains the power to override any legislation passed by DC’s City Council. In a city that has more people than either Vermont or Wyoming. (It looks like we will soon surpass both North Dakota and Alaska, too!)
Barry was a founding member of the Student Non-Violent (later “National”P Coordinating Committee, or SNCC. It’s well worth your while to read the Wikipedia entry on MB; he did quite a few courageous things before succumbing to addictions to alcohol, cocaine, and sex and embarrassing his supporters. (Heck, even my own parents held a fund-raiser at their house when he first ran for DC mayor around 1978!)
I posted these reminiscences on Facebook:
My one personal interaction with him was around 1975 when I was agitating for improvements at DC General as part of a very left wing anti-racist group. I encountered MB at the District Building entrance one night. He basically dissed us as a bunch of worthless Reds, saying he’d heard it all before. Which he probably had. Oh well.
A very valid criticism of Barry is that while his police force was locking up unprecedented numbers of Black kids [in the 1980s and 190s] for selling or possessing various drugs, he was also requiring his own official police detail to procure for HIM crack cocaine and pretty girls.
I later met a left-wing black communist who recalled Marion Barry from the early days of SNCC. She said he was a great organizer, but also quite the unprincipled womanizer — in her opinion.