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Former congressman Marion Berry, a dedicated statesman and advocate for Arkansas, passes away at 80

 U.S. Rep. Marion Berry (D-AR) represented Arkansas' 1st Congressional District from 1996-2010.  Berry's family announced on May 19 that he died from an unspecified illness.  He was 80.
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U.S. Rep. Marion Berry (D-AR) represented Arkansas' 1st Congressional District from 1996-2010. Berry's family announced on May 19 that he died from an unspecified illness. He was 80.

Former U.S. Rep. Marion Berry, D-Gillett, who began his political career as a Gillett city alderman and would serve seven terms in Congress, has died. He was 80.

Berry was born Aug. 27, 1942, in Stuttgart, graduated from DeWitt High School and received a bachelor’s degree in pharmacy in 1965 from the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences.

He became a rice and soybean farmer in Gillett and served on the Gillett city council between 1976 and 1980. His service prior to being elected to Congress included being on the Arkansas Soil and Water Conservation Commission (1986-1994), the White House Domestic Policy Council (1993-1996), and special assistant to President Bill Clinton for Agricultural Trade and Food Assistance (1993-1996).

In 1996, he defeated Republican Warren Dupwe with just under 53% of the vote to win his first term in Congress. He ran unopposed in 2008 for his seventh and final House term.

“Once elected to office, Berry never received less than sixty percent of the vote in any reelection effort, and he was twice unopposed, including in his final run in 2008. He was also a delegate to the Democratic Party’s national convention in 2000, 2004, and 2008,” noted the Encyclopedia of Arkansas.

Berry served on the powerful House Committee on Appropriations and its subcommittees on Homeland Security; Energy and Water Development; Military Construction; Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies; Transportation; Treasury; and Housing and Urban Development.

He also served on the influential House Budget Committee. Berry was one of 34 Democrats to vote against the Affordable Care Act. The conservative Democrat was also opposed to abortion and gay rights.

In 2012, he was the recipient of the Arkansas Rice Council’s Lifetime of Public Service award, and he was inducted into the Arkansas Agriculture Hall of Fame in 2013.

“Bryan and I are saddened to learn that former Representative Marion Berry has passed away,” Arkansas Gov. Sarah Sanders said in a statement. “A son of the Delta, Marion was a farmer and a statesman whose mix of homespun wisdom and hard-won political knowledge always made him a formidable representative for our state. His work took him to Washington and around the country, but Arkansas and his family farm were always home. I know that every Arkansan he served admired his loyalty to our state. I extend my deepest condolences to Carolyn and the entire Berry family in this difficult time.”

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe issued this statement: “Marion Berry was, at heart, a farmer with a pharmacist’s degree, and during his years in the House of Representatives, he was a natural advocate for agricultural issues and for the health of his rural constituents. He was plain-spoken, loyal, and worked hard every day for the people he represented. Marion welcomed me to his home for my very first ‘coon supper’ event when I was running for the Senate in 1981. He’s been a good friend and a staunch ally ever since.”

Democratic Party of Arkansas Chair Grant Tennille provided this statement: “Marion Berry believed that government should work for the people. Congressman Berry never forgot his roots, growing up on a farm in the Arkansas Delta, and he worked tirelessly to improve the lives of working Arkansans, particularly our farmers. His straight talk and sense of humor attracted attention on the national stage, but those who knew him recognized that delivering results for his constituents was the Congressman’s highest priority, always. He was a great Democrat and an even better public servant.”

This content has been contributed by the staff of our content partners Talk Business and Politics.