Former drug kingpin Melvin Williams dies at 73

4 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Little’ Melvin Williams, Baltimore drug kingpin who appeared on ‘The Wire,’ dies.

Melvin Williams, a former Baltimore drug kingpin who inspired — and later appeared on — HBO’s critically acclaimed drama The Wire, has died, according to the Baltimore Sun.Williams, who went by the nickname “Little Melvin,” was a drug kingpin in the 1960s, and is regarded as the inspiration for Wood Harris’ character Avon Barksdale on the landmark television series. Known as “Little Melvin” — or Slim or Black, for his preference for dark clothing — he once ruled the illegal drug trade along Pennsylvania Avenue.

Williams was known for his status as a ruler within Baltimore’s narcotics trafficking circles from the ’60s to the ’80s before beginning what was supposed to be a 34-year prison sentence in 1985. He served many years in federal prison for drug and gun convictions, and was one of the first criminals profiled on the BET program “American Gangster.” In later years, he said he had undergone a personal redemption. Eventual The Wire creator David Simon profiled Williams for The Baltimore Sun in 1987 (which you can read in full here), just less than a decade before Williams was released on parole in 1996. He spoke out against drug use and counseled young men to steer clear of the gang culture. “He became the symbol of crime problems in the city, whether he wanted to or not,” former Mayor Kurt L.

Williams went on to appear in a small recurring role on The Wire — where he worked with series writer and producer Ed Burns, a former homicide detective who had actually been on Williams’ case in the ’80s — from 2004 to 2008 as The Deacon, a mentor of sorts to Cutty (Chad Coleman), a one-time drug dealer who goes on to found a boxing gym for local kids with the help of the deacon’s encouragement. Following his release from prison in 1996, Williams left his life of crime and even appeared on the show on a recurring basis, playing a character called the Deacon. Simon honored Williams on Twitter Thursday with a photo of the late actor and a message: “RIP to Melvin ‘Little Melvin’ Williams, 73, who made me begin to rethink the drug war,” he wrote. “You ended it free, brother.”

Simon said Thursday. “He was a fascinating man in terms of Baltimore and what the drug war was going to do to this country.” In a video posted on YouTube in 2012, Mr. Reid III, the church’s senior pastor. “As a teen I had heard about him and one day, years later, I mentioned from the pulpit there were people selling drugs on Etting Street.

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