December 5, 2015


'Little' Melvin Williams, Baltimore drug kingpin who appeared on 'The Wire,' dies (Jacques Kelly, 12/03/15, The Baltimore Sun)

Known as "Little Melvin" -- or Slim or Black, for his preference for dark clothing -- he once ruled the illegal drug trade along Pennsylvania Avenue. He served many years in federal prison for drug and gun convictions, and was one of the first criminals profiled on the BET program "American Gangster."

In later years, he said he had undergone a personal redemption. He spoke out against drug use and counseled young men to steer clear of the gang culture.

"He became the symbol of crime problems in the city, whether he wanted to or not," former Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said. "In his later years, he tried to improve himself and help the community." [...]

In a video posted on YouTube in 2012, Mr. Williams said he had sold $1 billion worth of illegal narcotics in his lifetime. He spoke against drug use and trafficking.

Mr. Williams was born in Baltimore and raised on Madison Avenue. His father drove a cab; his mother was a nurse's aide. He attended Garnet Elementary School and spent some time at Frederick Douglass High School before transferring to City College. He dropped out in the 11th grade.

At age 26, as Mr. Williams was gaining notoriety, he was asked by authorities to help quell the riots ignited by the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. He appeared with Maj. Gen. George Gelston, the commander of the Maryland National Guard, on the front page of The Baltimore News American.

Mr. Williams left prison in 2003 after attorney Michael E. Marr had argued successfully that he didn't meet the technical requirements for the federal career criminal laws that prosecutors had used to send him to prison for what could have been the rest of his life.

"He was one of the most unusual clients because he was so straightforward and honest with me, the courts and police," said Howard L. Cardin, another attorney who represented him. "He would say, 'You can trust me.'"

Mr. Williams told Mr. Cardin he would not return to his former ways.

"He expressed that in a couple of reasons: 'What I did was wrong. And the kids who are out there today selling drugs are just killing one another. There is no honor. No way would I go near that,'" Mr. Cardin said.

"Melvin was determined to become a mentor and a role model. He had been through it all because he had grown up on the streets," he said. [...]

"I am proud to call Little Melvin a friend of mine," said the Rev. Frank M. Reid III, the church's senior pastor. "As a teen I had heard about him and one day, years later, I mentioned from the pulpit there were people selling drugs on Etting Street. After the service, Melvin went and talked to them. They stopped selling drugs."

Mr. Reid said Mr. Williams was "a man's man who had a serious religious conversion while he was behind prison bars."

Most recently, Mr. Williams operated an indoor flea market on West North Avenue near Smallwood Street.

"He had Saturday training sessions for young people in his building on North Avenue," said Dr. Philip Leaf, director of the Center for the Prevention of Youth Violence at the Bloomberg School of Public Health. "He told them to take their assets and do something personally and do something for your community."

He also brought in lawyers to talk about the criminal justice system and procedures, Dr. Leaf said.

"He had a civic pride and was concerned about people getting hurt."

Posted by at December 5, 2015 10:31 AM