Marion Berry Obituary, Death – Former U.S. Rep. Robert Marion Berry, an Arkansas Democrat who served seven terms in Congress and was known for blunt rhetoric and his advocacy for farmers and elderly residents, has died. He was 80. Berry, who was known as “Marion,” died Friday, his family confirmed in a statement Saturday. A cause of death was not provided. “With his signature quick wit and way with words, he lived his life in service to others,” said Berry’s son, Mitch. “He truly believed that the role of government was to help people, and it was a charge he took very seriously. He was generous with his time and talents as his dozens of mentees can attest.”
Berry was first elected to Congress in 1996 but decided against reelection in 2010 for health reasons. He underwent surgery to remove a brain tumor in July 2011. A licensed pharmacist and farmer, Berry was elected to represent the 1st District in eastern Arkansas after serving in President Bill Clinton’s administration as a special assistant for agricultural trade and food assistance. He quickly focused on issues most likely to impact his notably poor district, including agriculture.
Berry was known as much for his folksy manner and verbal takedowns of his political enemies — on both sides of the aisle — as his advocacy for his rural district. He once referred to a Texas Republican congressman on the House floor as a “Howdy-Doody-looking nimrod.” Frustrated with the George W. Bush administration’s response to disasters in Arkansas, he called the Federal Emergency Management Agency “an incompetent bunch of nincompoops that simply can’t run their agency.”
His congressional district was a major producer of soybeans, rice and cotton, and Berry aggressively pushed for an end to the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba, which could have boosted exports of those products. Berry also advocated for lowering prescription costs for seniors and lambasted a prescription drug program enacted by former Bush as a “catastrophic mess” and a “genuine legislative disaster.”