Harold "Nite Life" Young, 77, a retired supervisor and community organization specialist with the D.C. Substance Abuse Administration, died of respiratory arrest and kidney ailments Aug. 17 at Greater Southeast Community Hospital.
Mr. Young overcame his own heroin addiction and a life as a drug dealer and street hustler in the mid-1960s. From 1968 until he retired in 1980, he worked in D.C. government drug treatment programs as a counselor, community organizer, supervisor and speaker. He served on the Mayor's Task Force on Drug Abuse in 1969 and 1970.
A lifelong Washingtonian, Mr. Young graduated from Dunbar High School. In a 1976 interview with The Washington Post, he said he got his nickname as a senior when he hung out at night in the bars and streets around Seventh and U streets NW.
During World War II, he served in the Army. After the war, he returned here, and in 1949, he said, he began dealing in heroin. He soon became addicted to the drug himself.
"I was under the misunderstanding that when you shoot heroin you're a dope fiend and when you snort you're not." he said.
In 1959, he was sent to Lorton Reformatory on a drug conviction. He was paroled in 1961. In 1963, he was sent to the federal penitentiary in Lexington, Ky., for violating his parole.
He finished his prison term in 1968 and became a counselor here with the Bonabond Corp., a nonprofit organization that assists the courts in matters such as parole. A year later, he joined what was then the D.C. Narcotics Treatment Administration as a community organization assistant.
Mr. Young worked at several drug treatment centers throughout the city and was assigned to the detox center at D.C. General Hospital when he retired.
In a Post story covering one of his speeches to first-time drug offenders, Mr. Young was quoted as saying, "I'm not saying that if you smoke pot you go on to be a cold-blooded dope fiend like I was. But you're gambling when you mess with dope."
In another story dealing with a speech he gave to schoolchildren, he said: "The people who sell drugs are not concerned with you. All they care about is the dollar and they don't care what happens to you."
Mr. Young was active in Inner Voices and the Forum to Initiate Self Help, which are drug treatment organizations, and he was a member of the St. Augustine Catholic Church and the Kiwanis Club.
His first wife, Alberta Young, died in 1932.
Survivors include his wife, Gloria C. Young, and his mother, Florence B. Young, both of Washington.