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Posted at 12:37 PM ET, 07/25/2012

Mary Treadwell, ex-wife of Marion Barry, dies at 71


Mary Treadwell stands to Marion Barry’s left at his first campaign victory party — in 1971, after winning a school board seat. (Ellsworth Davis/The Washington Post)
Mary Treadwell, a key figure in Marion Barry’s life and rise to political power, died Saturday at her Baltimore home. She was 71.

The death was announced in a notice published Wednesday in The Washington Post and in a Tuesday night tweet from Barry, “She was a great friend, who was committed to the community.”

Treadwell married Barry in 1972, while his rise to political power was underway. Five years earlier, she’d co-founded Pride Inc., the jobs organization that helped transform Barry from a radical-seeming civil rights activist into a legitimate political figure whose appeal could cross race and class boundaries.

“She was in charge of administration, and I was in charge of operations,” Barry recalled Wednesday. “We made a good team.”

Treadwell, in fact, had a reputation for being every bit as mercurial as Barry — if not more so — and the relationship, like many in Barry’s life, was tumultuous. The couple divorced in 1977; the next year, Barry married Effi Slaughter, ran for mayor and won.

Treadwell remained active in city affairs but became embroiled in scandal. She was convicted in 1983 of stealing from Pride and again in 1997 of stealing from the Columbia Heights advisory neighborhood commission that she chaired.

Barry said he remained in touch with Treadwell over the years, even after she moved to Baltimore in 2003, last speaking to her three weeks ago.

“Every relationship you end, you end it as positively you can,” he said.

In his tweet Tuesday, Barry referred to Treadwell as his “first wife,” although he was briefly married in the early 1960s to Blantie Evans. Barry said Wednesday that the reference was not a mistake: “I had the first marriage annulled, so I didn’t count that.”

He said Treadwell had battled breast cancer, but he was not aware of the immediate cause of death. A complete Post obituary is forthcoming.

By  |  12:37 PM ET, 07/25/2012

 
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