Nearly three years after his death, the legacy of former District Mayor Marion Barry Jr. will be commemorated with an eight-foot statue in the heart of the city.
The bronze statue of the “Mayor for Life” will be placed outside of the John A. Wilson Building in Northwest next March, the same month as his birth, with an encrypted message from his autobiography:
“Most people don’t know me … They don’t know about all of the fighting I’ve done to manage a government that was progressive and more oriented to uplift the people rather than to suppress them. That’s what I want my legacy to be. I was a freedom fighter and a fighter for the economic livelihood of not only Black people but all people,” he wrote.
The statue will be a full-body likeness of the former mayor, who served from 1979 to 1991 and again from 1995 to 1999, with his arm raised in greeting on top of a 2½-foot granite pedestal.
Barry, a civil rights crusader, served as the second mayor of the District and eventually secured both the love and respect of many Washingtonians, particularly those who lived in Ward 8. That support would diminish little even after his 1990 arrest when he found himself caught up in a federal drug sting.
The D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities, former Mayor Sharon Pratt, Barry’s widow Cora Masters Barry and Western Development’s Herb Miller chose Maryland artist Steven Weitzman’s rendition from among 13 submissions and anticipate a project cost of $250,000 to be paid for through public and private funds.
“Marion Barry was known as a person who was engaging with ‘every man,’ shaking hands, waving, walking with his constituents and discussing their concerns,” the commission said in its statue proposal. “The concept of the sculpture is to show Barry outside, in the streets, greeting people and welcoming them to the city he so loved and helped to build.”
On July 13, the National Capital Planning Commission will discuss final site plans for the honorary statue.