Donnie Andrews, The Real-Life Omar, Dead at 58

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Donnie Andrews and Fran Boyd speaking at Harvard in April.
Donnie Andrews and Fran Boyd speaking at Harvard in April.

Only a few months ago, we mourned the death of DeAndre McCullough — the protagonist of David Simon’s The Corner; and this weekend we were saddened to hear that Donnie Andrews, the drug-hustler-turned-non-profit-activist who helped inspire the beloved character of Omar on The Wire, died in New York of heart complications.

Like his popular television counterpart, Andrews had a rough early life in West Baltimore, and turned to robbing drug dealers to support his heroin addiction. After he got roped in to a contract killing — his first murder — Andrews turned himself in to police, the Baltimore Sun reports, but not because he was angling for a lesser sentence:   “Everyone else in his position has been ‘I will cooperate for less time.’ Donnie was ‘I will cooperate because I want to repent.’ I’ve never had anyone like that. He convinced me,” lead prosecutor Charles Scheeler remembered.

The next few years of Andrews’s life read like, well, a popular HBO television series. He risked his life by wearing a wire to get drug kingpins on record; got sent to federal prison; and, once released, fell in love with Fran Boyd, another of The Corner‘s protagonists (and DeAndre McCullough’s mother). Their amazing wedding story ran in the New York Times in 2007; read it here, if you don’t mind a good Monday morning cry. Our heart goes out to Boyd, and to everyone else whose lives were touched by Andrews.



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