Today, the world lost a legend. Melvin “Little Melvin” Williams passed on this morning (December 3, 2015) at the University of Maryland Medical Center. He was 73-years-old. Melvin is most known for his role as the “The Deacon” on iconic HBO series “The Wire,” but he earned his spot by building his name on the streets of Baltimore over the decades as top dog of the drug trade throughout the ’70s into the ’80s.
Before drugs, he was a prolific gambler by the age of 15. He was able to excel in all of his arenas due to his superior intellect. He was so strong mentally that he could manipulate dice to fall the way he wanted them to. His ability to outwit all opponents impressed some of the big cats on the street. After seeing him hit the number twice in a week, Jewish crime boss Julius “the Lord” Salisbury, who had connections to organized crime legend Meyer Lansky, took Melvin under his wing and helped him flourish as a criminal.
From his perch, Melvin doled out loans and resolved issues brought to him, like a true boss. He was arrested and convicted for the first time in March 1967, a situation where Melvin says he was set up. While out on bail in 1968, Rev. Dr, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated and riots erupted in Baltimore. The police came to Melvin to get him to calm the people down, and people did so.
Melvin went into Maryland Penitentiary in 1969 to serve his 12 year sentence. He was released in 1974 with one thing on his mind, “to be the world’s best drug dealer.” On a monthly basis, Melvin reportedly started selling 40 to 50 keys of heroin at $75,000 a pop. He was able to evade law by operating with the mindset that every phone was tapped and every stranger was police. However, two of his workers snitched on him and he was hit with conspiracy charges in 1975. He was sentenced to 15 years.
After serving several years, Melvin came out of prison and entered into the cocaine game. He was arrested in 1984, then convicted and sentenced to 24 years in prison and 10 years on parole. When released in 1996, he became a bail bondsman, only to be re-arrested for pistol whipping a man who owed him. After a mistrial, Melvin was convicted in 1999, receiving a 22 year sentence the following year. The penalty was so harsh due to his past crimes.
His sentence was eventually reduced and Melvin was released in 2003. Finally, he decided to leave the streets alone. He said, “Sometime in my 50s, I became aware that there was a God in charge, and not a Melvin.”
Melvin Williams persona will live on forever, as elements of his life and hustle are integrated all throughout The Wire, but his impact will be felt forever on the streets of Baltimore, for better or for worse. He was truly one of a kind.