‘The Wire’s’ Melvin Williams Dead at 73

Melvin “Lil Melvin” Williams, 73, the iconic character in “The Wire” known as “The Deacon” died Thursday in Baltimore after a long illness.

Unknown to many of the series’ fans, he was the inspiration for the creation of the HBO series. To Baltimoreans he was a heroin kingpin who consolidated and revolutionized the drug trade following the 1968 riots.

With nearly 200 workers from the 70’s to the 80’s, he used his influence to shutdown other drug dealers during this period. Later, he would use the technology of pagers to move both heroin and cocaine. Federal officials used wiretaps to monitor his activities.

In 1984, Williams was found guilty of trafficking heroin and was sentenced to 24 years in prison and 10 years of parole. Authorities suspected he was still dealing drugs and arrested him on a federal gun charge in 1999 and sentenced him to another 22 years. A judge overturned his conviction in 2003.

Upon his release, Williams vowed to devote his life to serving God.

David Simon, then a Baltimore Sun reporter, would chronicle “Lil Melvin’s” drug trade and the resulting carnage. After leaving the Baltimore Sun, he pitched the idea of a series surrounding the drug trade using pagers which became “The Wire.”

In an ironic twist, Simon would use Williams as a consultant on the series, and as the character “The Deacon” who was a drug counselor.