Nathan Barksdale, the Baltimore drug kingpin who inspired key characters on HBO’s “The Wire,” has reportedly died. According to the Baltimore Sun, Barksdale passed away in North Carolina on Saturday, Feb. 13, while in a federal medical prison. He was 54 years old.
A spokesperson for the Baltimore health department, Sean Naron, confirmed the news on Tuesday, Feb. 16, citing the cause of death as an undisclosed illness.
In the 1980s, Barksdale ran a violent heroin dealing operation in Maryland. He later served 15 years in state prison for a 1985 conviction after torturing three people in an 11th floor apartment in the Murphy Homes public housing complex. Authorities said the heroin ring controlled much of the drug traffic in the now-demolished public housing projects in Baltimore, “the city that reads.”
Following his release from prison in 2000, Barksdale appeared to be getting his life together when he partnered with Safe Streets, an anti-violence program organized by the health department. However, in 2014, he pleaded guilty to participating in a drug conspiracy and was sentenced to four years in prison. As fans of “The Wire” know far too well, Barksdale aka Bodie served as the inspiration behind the gritty crime drama, including characters like drug boss Avon Barksdale and a dealer named Bodie Broadus.
However, in late 2014, David Simon, the creator of “The Wire,” told the Baltimore Sun that while the drug lord inspired aspects of some characters, he was not the specific basis for the character Avon Barksdale. “There are some anecdotal connections between his story and a multitude of characters,” Simon said. “We mangled street and given names throughout The Wire so that it was a general shout-out to the Westside players. But there is nothing that corresponds to a specific character.”
It was said that Barksdale enjoyed the connection to “The Wire.” In 2010, he released a DVD, The Avon Barksdale Story: Legends of the Unwired, which chronicled his somewhat unbelievable life. In it, Barksdale is interviewed by Wood Harris, who played Avon Barksdale in the show. “In real life he was one of the most notorious gangster drug kingpins Baltimore has ever seen,” the film’s narrator says. “He was a magnet for violence.”
R.I.P. Nathan Barksdale. Pay your condolences in the comment section below.