On Nov. 23, the renovated tombstone of the late Marion S. Barry was unveiled at the Congressional Cemetery in Southeast D.C. Former District first lady Cora Masters Barry was joined by D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) and two of her predecessors, Vincent C. Gray and Sharon Pratt, as well as D.C. Council members and 150 friends and family for the event.

“Refurbishing this tombstone was a labor of love,” Cora Barry said. “It wasn’t easy.”

Cora Masters Barry (widow), Bishop Thomas A. Masters, New Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Riviera Beach, Fla., Rev. Leah Daughtry, The House of the Lord Church in D.C. and others attended the unveiling ceremony of Marion Barry’s renovated tombstone on Nov. 23. (Photo by Rob Robert)

Cora Masters Barry (widow), Bishop Thomas A. Masters, New Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Riviera Beach, Fla., Rev. Leah Daughtry, The House of the Lord Church in D.C. and others attended the unveiling ceremony of Marion Barry’s renovated tombstone on Nov. 23. (Photo by Rob Roberts)

Barry, who served four terms as the District’s mayor and on the D.C. Council as an at-large member from 1975-1979, as a Ward 8 representative from 1993-1995 and 2005 until his death, passed away on Nov. 23, 2014. Barry was buried in Congressional Cemetery shortly after his funeral but Cora Barry wasn’t satisfied with a normal marker.

“I have been told that 15-20 people visit his gravesite a week,” she said. “With that, we needed to do something special for Marion.”

Cora Barry worked with artist Andy DeGallo to construct the black-stone tombstone that includes a quote from Barry, his likeness, and his timeline as well as his son Marion C. Barry’s timeline, a Biblical quote, and a quote on Barry from revered poetess-author Maya Angelou.

Bowser said that the new tombstone, as well as Barry, is an inspiration to her.

“I count myself among the lucky and the many friends of Marion Barry,” the mayor said. “He was a friend and a mentor. He was not a Washingtonian by birth but he was by choice and by passion.”

Bowser said Barry “wasn’t perfect but he was perfect for us at the time we needed him most.”

“He empowered people across the District and he worked to invest in small, local, and Black businesses,” she said. “I run into District residents who say all the time that ‘Marion Barry got me my first job’.”

Bowser, in one of her first acts as mayor in early 2015, renamed the city’s youth jobs program in Barry’s honor. In March 2015, she created a commission with the task to come up with ways to honor Barry. In November 2015, the commission recommended a statute of Barry at the John A. Wilson Building, and the renaming of the student center at the University of the District of Columbia, Good Hope Road, S.E., and Ballou High School in his honor.

Bowser publicly embraced the statute, “where people will see Marion Barry, Mayor for Life, all the time.” Gray agreed with Bowser on the statute. “That would be a wonderful, dignified, deserving monument to Barry,” Gray told the AFRO.

The other recommendations are in the works, with the student center renaming considered non-controversial but the Good Hope Road and Ballou High School options are generating debate.

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) spoke on behalf of the city’s legislative body, with D.C. Council members Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), Elissa Silverman (I-At Large), LaRuby May (D-Ward 8), Robert White (D-At Large), Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7), and D.C. Council member-elect Trayon White (D-Ward 8) attending.

“He helped change Washington, D.C. from a Southern White-ruled city to an African-American ruled city,” Mendelson, council chairman, said. “On the council, he helped establish the homestead exemption and pushed for D.C. statehood.”

The Rev. Willie Wilson, senior pastor of Union Temple Baptist Church in Southeast D.C., performed a libation ceremony, spiritually anointing the tombstone in an African tradition and Cora Barry’s brother, Bishop Thomas Masters, quoted and preached on Mark 9:35, the Biblical verse on serving others. The Rev. Leah Daughtry, who served as the CEO of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this past summer, was the mistress of ceremonies.

“A reporter said to me that some newer people are moving into the city and may not know anything about Marion Barry,” Cora Barry said. “I told that reporter that’s not true and people will remember Marion 30 or even 100 years from now. Marion Barry’s legacy is a fiber in this city.”