Schmoke gives Barry warm welcome

October 03, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

After Kurt L. Schmoke was elected mayor nearly seven years ago, one of the first phone calls came from Marion S. Barry Jr., then mayor of Washington, D.C., who offered to show his colleague the ins and outs of running a big city.

Yesterday, Mr. Schmoke returned the favor. He appeared briefly at a reception for Mr. Barry given by Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in West Baltimore to offer his support as the former three-term mayor of Washington campaigns for the office he lost four years ago after a drug conviction.

"I'm proud that Marion Barry is back here in Baltimore, and I'm looking forward to working with him in the Conference of Mayors and the Conference of African-American Mayors. . . . He is an outstanding leader," Mr. Schmoke said. "You know that we always view you as a friend here. Come back any time, and God bless you."

Mr. Barry was in Baltimore to deliver the sermon at Bethel's 11 a.m. service, where he offered his testimony of recovery and redemption to an enthusiastic congregation.

"We've had some dark moments in our life, and I'm sure you've had some, too. But I'm here to tell you, you can't have a testimony without a test. You can't have a mountaintop without a valley," Mr. Barry told the congregation.

"I've asked my God for his forgiveness. And I've asked the people of Washington for their forgiveness, and they've done so," he said.

In Washington last month, Mr. Barry won the Democratic mayoral nomination with 47 percent of the vote.

He is heavily favored to win the Nov. 8 general election against Republican nominee Carol Schwartz.

The overwhelming response by Bethel's congregation yesterday mirrored the strong support Mr. Barry enjoys in Washington among black voters.

"He fought. He kept on fighting," said an elated Marcella Richardson as she left the service. "I love him, always did."

"This man has overcome obstacles that all of us in the African-American community face," said Diane Christopher, another Bethel member.

Mr. Schmoke said his friendship with Mr. Barry began when the former mayor of Washington attended his inauguration and invited him for a daylong chat on what he would face in his first year in office.

"He spent an entire day with me, showing me a number of different programs that he had started," Mr. Schmoke said. "But he had made a point of emphasizing his first-year failures. He wanted to show me about some of the programs and how they sort of got ahead of him, his vision, and how he wasn't able to put it together. But then, in the subsequent years, how he was able to put it together."

Mr. Schmoke said he welcomes the return of Mr. Barry as mayor. Before Mr. Barry was forced from office, the two mayors had worked closely to develop a twin-cities concept between Baltimore and Washington.

"I think he's going to do a good job. I think he's going to win the election," Mr. Schmoke said.

"I understand very much the misgivings that some people have, particularly when they see the tape of the hotel incident played over and over," he said, referring to the videotape of the FBI sting in which Mr. Barry was seen smoking crack cocaine.

"But I think most African-Americans believe the guy should be given a second chance when he has paid his debt and when he has professed to being in recovery," Mr. Schmoke said. "I realize overcoming substance abuse is not an easy task. But I think he is on the road to recovery."

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