Melvin Williams, Inspiration for ‘The Wire,’ Dead at 73

Former drug kingpin had a recurring role on HBO series

Melvin Williams

Melvin Williams, the inspiration for HBO’s “The Wire,” died on Thursday. He was 73.

Nicknamed, “Little Melvin,” Williams’ past as a drug kingpin in the ’60s is said to have been the inspiration for Wood Harris’ character Avon Barksdale on the critically acclaimed drama. Williams eventually left the drug trade and went on to work with local pastors.

He also had a recurring role on the series as Deacon, a pastor giving aid to West Baltimore youth.

Series creator David Simon tweeted his respects to Williams on Thursday. “RIP to Melvin “Little Melvin” Williams, 73, who made me begin to rethink the drug war,” he wrote. “You ended it free, brother.”