Nathan Barksdale, The Real-Life Baltimore Gangster Who Was Inspiration For ‘The Wire,’ Died In Prison

Nathan Barksdale, the supposed real-life inspiration for iconic The Wire character Avon Barksdale, died in prison at the age of 54 this weekend according to The Chicago Tribune. He passed away from an undisclosed illness while serving his second stint in a federal prison in North Carolina. Similar to the also recently departed Melvin Williams, who was similarly a Baltimore drug kingpin and partial inspiration for the HBO drama, Barksdale had decided to give back to the community where he ruled the streets for so long. Unfortunately in his particular situation, he was arrested again and sentenced to nearly half a decade for his participation in the heroin trade. According to Barksdale’s own comments, here’s what went wrong:

…he had lapsed back into heroin addiction and had been running a scam to feed his habit. He said he would try to get samples of heroin, promising to pass them on to big-time dealers, but would use the drugs himself.

He was caught because of a DEA investigation, yet maintained his belief that he would continue to work with charities and local organizations in Baltimore to right some of the wrongs he committed in his youth. Even though that can never be, there is hope that the positive contributions he made to Baltimore will be as enduring as the love for The Wire itself. According to creator David Simon, Barksdale served asinspiration for multiple characters including Avon Barksdale (obviously) as well as drug dealer Bodie (one of Nathan Barksdale’s nicknames) and some of the other major players throughout the show:

“Barksdale did inspire aspects of certain characters, but was not specifically the basis for the Avon Barksdale character…There are some anecdotal connections between his story and a multitude of characters.”

As fans of The Wire know, the major players in the Baltimore drug trade were nothing to mess with. So it’s a positive sign that Barksdale decided to right some of his wrongs from the 1980’s before he died. Even though his contributions and mistakes alike might be forgotten some day, they will live on in the form of The Wire and those fans.

(via The Chicago Tribune)