Newswire: R.I.P. Melvin Williams, actor and inspiration for The Wire’s Avon Barksdale

Melvin Williams, a former Baltimore drug kingpin who served as the inspiration for the character of Avon Barksdale on The Wire, has died. Williams—who, like many of Simon’s contacts from his time as a reporter for The Baltimore Sun, appeared on the show—was 73.

Born in Baltimore, and known by his nickname “Little Melvin,” Williams presents a complicated figure to those hoping to summarize his life: a charismatic community leader in one moment, a hot-tempered man of violence in another, and someone who spent much of his life in a jail cell for masterminding a multi-million dollar drug empire (allegedly responsible for numerous deaths) in the next. Much of what’s known about him comes from Simon, who wrote a five-part series on Williams—titled “Easy Money: Anatomy Of A Drug Empire”—for the Baltimore Sun after the man’s 1985 conviction for cocaine trafficking. (Scans of …

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