Nathan Barksdale Dies; Drug Kingpin and Inspiration For The Wire Was 54

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Nathan Barksdale - the Baltimore drug kingpin who served as the inspiration for Avon Barksdale and several other characters in the acclaimed HBO series The Wire - has passed away.

He was 54 years old.

Nathan Barksdale

While running his city's largest heroin distribution ring in the 1980s, Barksdale was shot more than 20 times and had to have his right leg amputated below the knee.

Shortly thereafter, he was arrested on assault charges and sentenced to 15 years behind bars.

It was during his trial that Barksdale first caught the attention of Baltimore Sun reported David Simon, who went to create The Wire.

After qualifying for early release in 1994, Barksdale became a spokesman the anti-violence initiative Safe Streets.

He also worked closely with the cast and production crew of The Wire in helping to bring the story of Baltimore's rampant drug and violent crime problems to the screen.

Barksdale was even the subject of a documentary about his life and rehabilitation that was released at the height of the show's popularity.

"In real life he was one of the most notorious and resilient gangster drug kingpins Baltimore has ever seen," says the film's narrator at one point. "He was a magnet for violence."

Sadly - yet somewhat appropriately - Barksdale was ensnared in a DEA wiretap in 2014 and sentenced to four years behind bars.

He died in federal prison earlier this week.

Along with Melvin Williams who served as the basis for several characters and played the character of the Deacon on the show, Barksdale is the second Wire inspiration to prematurely pass away in past year.