Nathan Barksdale, Inspiration for ‘The Wire,’ Dies at 54

The former Baltimore gang leader and drug kingpin died in a federal prison in North Carolina

Nathan Barksdale, the gang leader who was an inspiration for HBO’s “The Wire,” has died at age 54.

Barksdale passed away from an unspecified illness while in a federal prison in North Carolina Saturday, The Baltimore Sun reported the news Tuesday.

Barksdale is the subject matter of the documentary “Baltimore Chronicles: Legends of the Unwired,” which purports to tell the true story behind the stories David Simon created on “The Wire.”

The drug kingpin ran a dangerous heroin operation in Baltimore in the 1980s.

In 1987, Simon wrote a series called “Easy Money: Anatomy of a Drug Empire” for the Baltimore Sun, where he worked at the time. Barksdale was mentioned in the articles, and one of the characters on “The Wire” is named Avon Barksdale (played by Wood Harris).

The real-life Barksdale worked with Baltimore’s anti-violence Safe Streets program, but was arrested and pleaded guilty in 2014 to a conspiracy involving heroin and members of the Black Guerrilla Family gang.

While Simon has contested that any one person inspired “The Wire,” he has said on DVD commentary that at least some names of characters were an homage to Barksdale and other real life Baltimore characters.