While an undergraduate at LeMoyne College (now LeMoyne-Owen College), Barry picked up the nickname “Shep” in reference to Soviet propagandist Dmitri Shepilov for his ardent support of the civil rights movement. Barry began using Shepilov as his middle name.
Barry completed graduate work in chemistry at Fisk University in Nashville, Tenn., earning a master’s degree. He left school short of a doctorate to work in the civil rights movement.
Barry’s political rise began in 1960, when he became the first national chairman of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, which sent young people into the South to register black voters and became known as one of the most militant civil rights groups of that era.
Barry’s work with the committee brought him to Washington. He first entered local politics as a member of the school board and then in 1974 as a member of the first elected city council.
He was wounded by a shotgun blast in the Hanafi Muslim takeover of D.C.’s city hall in 1977. The shooting was credited with strengthening him politically. In 1978, Barry defeated incumbent Mayor Walter Washington in the Democratic primary and went on to easily win the general election.
Barry’s early years in office were marked by improvement in many city services and a dramatic expansion of the government payroll, creating a thriving black middle class in the nation’s capital. He established a summer jobs program that gave many young people their first work experience and earned him political capital. Read Full via rutlandHearold