As mayor of the nation's capital, Marion Barry grinned and strutted for a dozen years like a man with the world in a jug and his thumb clamped on the cork.
But, in his last official act, Barry displayed humility appropriate to a once powerful political leader deposed in disgrace after an FBI sting in which agents secretly filmed him smoking cocaine in a former lover's hotel room.It was a subdued Barry, free while appealing a six-month prison sentence, who handed over the seal of the District of Columbia Wednesday to his successor, Sharon Pratt Dixon, a self-styled reformer and political outsider.
Barry, an old pol and consummate insider once sardonically dubbed mayor-for-life, somberly asked God's blessing on Dixon's administration of the nation's capital he described in brief but gracious remarks as "a forgiving city."
Murder City, so called because it is afflicted with the nation's highest homicide rate, needs all the help it can get.
Even as Dixon delivered her inaugural address, police sirens wailed in the background in a grim reminder of the city's epidemic of drug-related crime.
Barry, 54, was effective during his first two terms, but some observers said drug and alcohol abuse in recent years caused him to become sluggish and withdrawn.
After his arrest, Barry acknowledged and was treated for alcohol and drug abuse, but for years the mayor lived a lie.
"My mind is a pearl," he chanted to a group of schoolchildren in 1989. "I can do anything in the whole world. If it's to be, it's up to me. Keep myself drug-free! Keep myself drug-free!"
Then, just over a year ago, Barry was arrested in the sting that caused his downfall.
Born in the tiny Mississippi community of Itta Bena, Barry grew up in Memphis and earned a master's degree in chemistry at Fisk University in Nashville, where he joined the struggle for civil rights.
At the height of his political power, Barry firmly denied that he illegally used drugs, despite repeated accusations that he was a long-time cocaine user who had been treated repeatedly for overdoses.