Melvin Douglas Williams died of cancer at the age of 73 on December 3rd, 2015, at the University of Maryland Medical Center in his beloved city of Baltimore. He was born in 1941 in Baltimore, the city where he became famous and died. “Little Melvin” trafficked heroin in the 1970s and 80s and eventually acted on the HBO show The Wire.
In the 1960s, Williams was notorious in West Baltimore for his gambling. He became even more famous after helping to stop rioting in the city after Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed in 1968. At that point, Williams had a storied criminal record and trafficked heroin and cocaine.
Williams stated that he made at least a couple hundred million dollars just through trafficking heroin in Baltimore City. He was arrested for trafficking cocaine in 1984 and convicted and sentenced to 34 years in prison the following year. Williams was released on parole in 1996. All of these facts were stated in The Baltimore Sun when Williams was featured.
While he was still in prison, “Little Melvin’s” life story was told throughout five articles by David Simon, the creator of The Wire, in the Baltimore Sun in 1987. He later appeared on The Wire during its third and fourth seasons, and he was profiled on the BET show American Gangster as well. It is said that he inspired the main character of Avon Barksdale in The Wire.
Former Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said that Williams, “became the symbol of crime problems in the city, whether he wanted to or not. In his later years, he tried to improve himself and help the community.” Later in his life, Williams condemned drug use and gang culture.
Williams underwent a personal redemption after turning to religion in prison. In a YouTube video he posted in 2o12, he said he used to run an operation that grossed a million dollars a day and he had sold a billion dollars worth of drugs in his life before speaking out against drug use and trafficking.
Melvin Williams was the physical embodiment of the city of Baltimore. On the outside, he looked rough around the edges and troubled, but there was much more to the real “Little Melvin” than it seemed. He was a man of surprising depth who contributed much more to Baltimore than he took away during his earlier years. He is undoubtedly a legendary figure in his home city.
He is survived by his wife and two daughters.