Drug-addicted, philandering, graft-seeking ex-con, ex-D.C. mayor to 'lie in state' before procession and funeral

In life, former Washington, D.C. mayor Marion Barry was as disreputable a figure as any who ever held public office.

In death, he is being treated as a civic saint, with a three-day marathon of paeans and plaudits – including the body of the former mayor being put on display at the convention center.

Roll Call:

The District of Columbia plans to bid farewell to its “mayor for life” over the course of three days, with a procession through all eight wards of the city and a massive celebration at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Tens of thousands are expected to attend the Dec. 6 viewing and memorial service for Marion Barry, the former four-term mayor and Ward 8 councilmember who died Sunday at age 78. President Barack Obama’s name may even appear on the guest list, organizers suggested Wednesday.

Mayor Vincent Gray declared Barry the most iconic figure in the history of the District of Columbia, then quipped, “and remember, that includes the federal government also.” He recalled Barry’s pride in 2008, when he saw Obama receive the Democratic nomination in Denver. ”He saw everything that he had stood for, and everything he had tried to do embodied in this African-American man being nominated to be the president of the United States,” Gray said.

Barry will lie in repose in the John A. Wilson Building for 24 hours, beginning at 9 a.m. on Dec. 4. The last person bestowed with that honor was Barry’s ex-wife, Effi Barry, in 2007. A brief service will honor his contributions as an important civic leader in the decades after Home Rule, who served 16 years as mayor and 16 years on the D.C. Council.

“His passing is hard on the institution,” D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said Wednesday.  District employees will be allowed up to two hours of administrative leave on Thursday to visit the closed casket.

Barry’s body will be transported through the city on Dec. 5, along a route yet to be determined, to one of the churches he regularly attended. The Temple of Praise on Southern Avenue Southeast will host a musical and video tribute from 3 to 6 p.m., followed by a community memorial service from 6 to 9 p.m.

Barry's legendary peccadilloes included a conviction for drug possession in 1990 after he was caught on tape smoking crack, failure to pay federal or local taxes for 8 out of 9 years in the early 2000s, and a long line of mistresses that finally drove his wife to divorce him.  He was also caught up in a kickback scheme involving one of his girlfriends, for which he humbly apologized for his "error in judgment."

Such an outpouring of praise should be reserved for those public servants who keep faith with the citizens.  Barry's wretched record and personal failings should have condemned him to a pine box and a shallow grave.  Instead, he is being canonized.

What fools these mortals be.