Melvin Williams, Actor and Inspiration for ‘The Wire,’ Dies at 73

Melvin Williams Dead The Wire Baltimore
Courtesy of Vimeo/Skoolas Productions

Melvin Williams, the one-time Baltimore drug kingpin whose transformation helped inspire David Simon’s HBO series “The Wire,” died Thursday at University of Maryland Medical Center, according to the Baltimore Sun. He was 73.

Williams had a recurring role in later seasons of the show in the role of Deacon, a street-wise and compassionate clergyman who sought to help drug dealers and youth caught up in the violence of West Baltimore.

Williams is said to have been the inspiration for Avon Barksdale, “Wire’s” fictional drug lord whose saga dominated the first three seasons of the show that ran from 2002 to 2008. Williams served several years in federal prison on drug charges, but disavowed crime and worked with local pastors and youth after his release.

Simon on Thursday tweeted a picture of Williams, calling him the man “who made me begin to rethink the drug war. You ended it free, brother.”

During his tenure as a Baltimore Sun crime reporter, Simon wrote a powerful five-part series in 1987 about Williams’ rise and fall as a drug titan and ruler of the city’s mean streets. The stories, which the Sun re-posted on its website Thursday, read like a treatment for “The Wire.”

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  1. Nikki Riser says:

    He was undoubtedly wise and experienced as he grew older. He was great in the series. My respects goes to Melvin Williams who made through it to tell his story. RIP

  2. I guess we all grew up with Melvin from the West Side of Baltimore in 1942. From Booker T. Washington Jr High School, Baltimore City College. Melvin shot dice all day at City College. Melvin had an IQ of 180. Melvin could have been a doctor, astronaut or scientist. We grew all those professions in the West Side of Baltimore. I am not defending Melvin. There is nothing to defend. But where did Melvin get the drugs from? Where did the guns come from in America?

  3. Patricia Kuessner says:

    The Wire has been my ol’ time favorite story series…ever! I was sorry when it came to an end.

  4. Deborah says:

    Now that a real life OG when you make it right before you leave this side of heaven, RIP

  5. Troy says:

    I seen a documentary where Avon Barksdale was an actual person and was the alleged inspiration for the Wire.

  6. Na says:

    R.I.P Melvin Williams

  7. Stringer Schmel says:

    But Avon Barksdale never reformed, did he?

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