Nathan 'Bodie' Barksdale -- gangster who inspired 'The Wire' -- dies incarcerated at 54
UPI News Service, 02/19/2016
Nathan "Bodie" Barksdale, the former Baltimore gangster said to have inspired parts of the HBO hit show The Wire, has died in federal prison. He was 54 years old.
Baltimore City Health Department spokesperson, Sean Naron, said Barksdale died Saturday of natural causes after being sick for some time.
The former criminal, who in the 1980s was arguably the most notorious gangster in Baltimore, went by the street name "Bodie" and ran a heroin-dealing operation at the time.
Over the course of his life, Barksdale had been shot over 20 times and his right leg amputated below the knee.
In 2010, Barksdale released a low-budget documentary dramatizing his own life titled "The Avon Barksdale Story: Legends of the Unwired."
In it, Barksdale is interviewed by actor Wood Harris, who played Avon in "The Wire." The DVD reportedly makes several connections between the real life gangster's life and that of characters in the HBO series.
Show creator David Simon confirmed Barksdale served as part of the inspiration behind several characters and themes.
"There are some anecdotal connections between his story and a multitude of characters," Simon told the Baltimore Sun in 2014.
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"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."
Barksdale, the notorious Baltimore native, spent 15 years in prison during the 1980s and 1990s for torturing three people. After serving his time, he reportedly left a life of crime to pursue more noble work in such projects as the Safe Streets Program, which aimed to mentor kids.
In 2014, Barksdale found himself at odds with the law again when he -- attempting to fulfill his heroin addiction -- was caught organizing a heroin deal during a wiretap investigation. He was sentenced to 42 months in a North Carolina prison.
At the time of his 2014 sentencing, U.S. District Judge George L. Russell III warned Barksdale's health was of concern, according to the Baltimore Sun.
"You can't physically afford to keep getting incarcerated, or you're going to die in prison," Russell is quoted as saying at the time.
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