- "Yeah, I ain't no suit-wearin' businessman like you. You know, I'm just a gangsta, I suppose. And I want my corners."
- ―Avon Barksdale
Avon Randolph Barksdale is a former narcotics trafficker and leader of the Barksdale Organization.
Avon Barksdale was born on August, 15, 1970 at Provident Hospital in Baltimore City to Willette Jackson Barksdale. Barksdale grew up in Franklin Terrace and was arrested as a youth but had his juvenile record expunged. ("The Buys")
Barksdale competed in the Golden Gloves program and was trained by his father from a young age. ("Old Cases")
After Avon's nephew and lieutenant D'Angelo murdered Pooh Blanchard, Avon ordered Stringer to pay one of the witnesses, a security guard named Nakeesha Lyles, to retract her initial photo array identification during the trial. ("The Target")
After D'Angelo was acquitted, Avon chastised him for costing the organization time and money, and demoted him from the 221 Tower to The Pit. Avon also ordered Bird to murder the other witness, William Gant, whom the Barksdale Organization had been unable to intimidate or bribe. Gant's body was left on display to send a message to other potential witnesses. ("The Target")
D'Angelo was shaken by the murder and began to have second thoughts about his life, but Avon persuaded him to remain loyal to the family.
Avon was angered when The Pit's stash was robbed by legendary Baltimore stick-up man Omar Little, and he placed a heavy bounty on Omar and his crew. Wee-Bey Brice killed John Bailey, a member of Omar's crew. Omar's lover Brandon Wright was captured and tortured by Stringer, Wee-Bey, Bird and Stinkum. In response, Omar provides information of the murder of witness William Gant that leads to the arrest of a Barksdale enforcer, Bird, who is Gant's killer. Later after providing the information, Omar killed Stinkum and wounded Wee-Bey with a gunshot to the leg, culminating with a failed assassination attempt on Avon outside of Orlando's. Wee-Bey managed to save Avon at the last minute and wounded Omar in the shoulder, forcing him to retreat.
The Pit was also subject to police raids which seized a second resupply of narcotics and arrested a one-eyed blind carrier named Kevin Johnston and a dealer named Marvin Browning. The police also seized an entire day's profits from Wee-Bey, totalling $22,000 dollars. They also briefly seized a payment on its way to State Senator Davis but were forced to return it because of his political influence. The robbery and police activity combined raised suspicion that there was a leak in the pit, and an increasingly paranoid Avon ordered D'Angelo to remove the pay phones (which had indeed been wiretapped).
Barksdale's front man Orlando, who ran a club bearing his name as a front for the Barksdale's, had been trying to become involved in the drug trade, and Avon angrily beats him, warning him that the only reason he was front man was because of his clean record for the liquor license on the club. Orlando persisted in trying to go into the business for himself, and was arrested by the state police. Avon promptly has his name removed from the club's license. Orlando agreed to aid the police in their investigation, and Avon sent Wee-Bey, Little Man and Savino to kill him. The job was complicated when they found a woman accompanying Orlando and Little Man panicked and shot her. Avon quickly learned that the woman was a narcotics officer, Detective Greggs.
The shooting of a detective led to a massive crackdown from the police. Savino was forced to turn himself in, but faced a sentence of just three years because he was not directly implicated in the shooting. Avon and Stringer held a crisis meeting with attorney Maurice Levy, who advised them to remove any possible loose ends. Avon ordered several murders, including unreliable enforcer Little Man, Nakeesha Lyles and a young dealer from The Pit named Wallace.
Avon finally incriminated himself on a hidden camera in his office and was arrested. He was sentenced to seven years incarceration. In prison, he is imprisoned with his Barksdale associates including D'Angelo, who is facing a twenty-year sentence for drug trafficking and refusal to cooperate, and Wee-Bey, who is serving life imprisonment for multiple counts of homicide.
Avon continued to run his organization from within the prison through Stringer. D'Angelo and Wee-Bey were imprisoned alongside Avon, both due to serve much longer terms. Wee-Bey informed Avon that a prison guard, Dwight Tilghman, was harassing him, in retaliation for the murder of a relative. Avon tried to reason with Tilghman, but the guard refused to talk to him. Knowing that Tilghman had a side line in smuggling narcotics into the prison, Avon contrived to supply him with tainted heroin, causing numerous deaths. When the warden began an investigation, Avon came forth as an "informant", accusing Tilghman of the crime. Narcotics were found in Tilghman's car, leading to his arrest. As a result of his testimony, Avon's first parole hearing was brought forward in exchange for the information. Despite being the one ultimately responsible for the crime, he is due to be out of jail within a year. D'Angelo grows more distant from Avon, refusing to take part in the scheme, and seeming depressed, even turning to drug use. Without Avon's knowledge, Stringer has D'Angelo killed and the scene faked to imply suicide.
Because Avon's arrest was closely followed by the arrest of a Dominican supplier, the Dominicans were suspicious that Avon might have named them to receive a lighter sentence, and the business relationship was brought to an end. Avon recommended secondary sources to Stringer but was unable to secure a quality product. Stringer suggested that they give up a portion of their territory to their rival Proposition Joe. Avon quickly dismissed the idea, reminding Stringer how hard they worked to seize the territory in the first place. Stringer decided to act behind Avon's back and allowed Proposition Joe to move in despite Avon's order. Avon responded by contracting the feared Brother Mouzone to defend his turf, which he forces Joe's lieutenant and nephew Cheese to depart from the towers area. After Mouzone had been shot by Omar (which Stringer arranged, behind Avon's back), Avon reluctantly agreed to Stringer's proposal.
While Avon is still in prison the high rise towers are demolished forcing the Barksdale organization to return to the streets for territory. Upon his release from prison, Avon is showered with gifts by Stringer: a nightclub, a penthouse apartment, expensive clothes, and a new SUV. Avon, while appreciative of Stringer's largesse, is outraged that Stringer has let their control over their territory slip as much as it has, and gets involved in a gang war with up-and-coming drug lord, Marlo Stanfield. Avon employed a woman named Devonne through Slim Charles to find Marlo. She encounters Marlo in a bar, seduces him, and gives him her phone number so they can meet up again. When they later plan to meet up, it becomes clear that a trap has been set and Marlo's enforcer Chris Partlow shoots and kills a Barksdale crew member named Tater and wounds Avon in the process. Later, Marlo finds Devonne and shoots her dead in front of her home.
Avon and Stringer continue to clash over their leadership styles; Proposition Joe tells Stringer that he will withhold the quality product if Avon's war with Stanfield continues, but Avon believes that they will look weak. In a tense confrontation, Stringer suspiciously admits to Avon that D'Angelo's death wasn't a suicide and calmly admits that he ordered his nephew's death. At first Avon is in disbelief, but realizes and wrestles Stringer, which Stringer overpowers him and angrily admits his reasons why D'Angelo was murdered under his orders. Stringer then gets in contact with Major Colvin and provides him with evidence against Avon. Meanwhile, Brother Mouzone returns to Baltimore and demands that Avon tell him where to find Stringer. Knowing it will mean his friend's death but unable to find an alternative since he is ultimately enraged at Stringer having ordering his nephew's death, Avon does so, and Mouzone, along with Omar, kills Stringer
Avon was ultimately arrested again; based on evidence that Stringer provided, police raided Barksdale's wartime safehouse and were able to put weapons and conspiracy charges on all those present. Barksdale has five years remaining on his earlier charges and returns to prison for violation of his parole. ("Mission Accomplished")
In 2008, Marlo meets with Avon in order to secure a meeting with Malatov. ("Unconfirmed Reports")
|"The Target"||"The Detail"||"The Buys"||"Old Cases"||"The Pager"|
|"The Wire"||"One Arrest"||"Lessons"||"Game Day"||"The Cost"|
|"The Hunt"||"Cleaning Up"||"Sentencing"|
|"Ebb Tide"||"Collateral Damage"||"Hot Shots"||"Hard Cases"||"Undertow"|
|"All Prologue"||"Backwash"||"Duck and Cover"||"Stray Rounds"||"Storm Warnings"|
|"Bad Dreams"||"Port in a Storm"|
|"Time after Time"||"All Due Respect"||"Dead Soldiers"||"Amsterdam"||"Straight and True"|
|"Homecoming"||"Back Burners"||"Moral Midgetry"||"Slapstick"||"Reformation"|
|"Middle Ground"||"Mission Accomplished"|
|"More with Less"||"Unconfirmed Reports"||"Not for Attribution"||"Transitions"||"React Quotes"|
|"The Dickensian Aspect"||"Took"||"Clarifications"||"Late Editions"||"-30-"|
- Avon's story of the first season itself mirrors real-life investigations of Baltimore drug traffickers like "Little Melvin" Williams, Chin Farmer, Cookie Savage, Warren Boardley and Linwood Williams, each of which writer Ed Burns played a part in. The writers also drew from their experience of Baltimore in naming the characters. The Liberty Heights Barksdale family of five brothers is the source for the Barksdale family on the show.