Heroin Kingpin Nathan Barksdale, Inspiration for Avon Barksdale of "The Wire," Dies at 54

Feb 18 2016

Heroin Kingpin Nathan Barksdale, Inspiration for Avon Barksdale of “The Wire,” Dies at 54

Nathan Avon Barksdale, the drug kingpin fictionalized as Avon Barksdale on HBO’s The Wire, has died in federal prison at the age of 54.

In the 1980s, Barksdale ran a notorious drug ring in the Murphy Homes housing projects in Baltimore. He was charged in connection to the 1982 murder of one of his associates, Frank Harper, but was acquitted.

In 1985, he was convicted for the torture of three people. Barksdale served 15 years in prison for the crime, mentoring Baltimore youth through the Safe Streets program. During his career selling drugs he had been shot 20 times, resulting in the amputation of his leg. Later in his life, he became addicted to heroin, which led to the drug bust that landed him in prison.

Barksdale embraced his public persona. When David Simon created The Wire, he chose to loosely base the character of Avon Barksdale, portrayed by actor Wood Harris, on the real Barksdale. So far the cause of death has not been reported by the prison medical staff.

In this video actor Wood Harris, who portrayed Avon Barksdale on The Wire, interviews Nathan Barksdale.