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Baltimore mayor recalls Marion Barry as 'voice for the voiceless'

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake on Sunday commented on the death of Marion Barry, calling the controversial Washington councilman and former mayor "an outspoken voice for the voiceless."

In a statement, Rawlings-Blake said Barry "lived his life in service to the public and reminded us all that, with grit and determination, we can overcome any obstacles life brings our way."

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Barry, 78, had been hospitalized and collapsed hours after being released on Saturday night, according to Reuters and other media reports. He died at the United Medical Center in Washington, spokeswoman Natalie Williams said. The cause of death was not disclosed.

Barry had been one of the nation's most promising black politicians prior to being jailed in 1991 on charges related to smoking crack cocaine. He went to prison for six months. He had served three terms as mayor, from 1979 until 1991 when he went to prison. He reclaimed public office in 1995, and was considered a hero to many in impoverished parts of the city even as his battles with substance abuse went public.

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Rawlings-Blake alluded to those issues, and said, "as we reflect on his life, many will surely focus on his struggles. However, even those struggles could not match his determination to serve the citizens of the District of Columbia and the love he received in return from those who lovingly referred to him as 'mayor for life.'

"He believed in making government work for the people, and his public service provided hope and opportunity to many constituents who hadn't had it before," she said in the statement.

Reuters contributed to this story.

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