Nashville mayor’s son, 22, dies from apparent drug overdose

USA Today NetworkJoey Garrison and Jordan Buie, The Tennessean
Published 3:31 p.m. ET July 30, 2017 | Updated 11:04 p.m. ET July 30, 2017


Nashville Mayor Megan Barry’s only child, Max, died from an apparent drug overdose the Denver area on Saturday, July 29, 2017. He was 22.

NASHVILLE — So often it has been Nashville Mayor Megan Barry seeking to comfort the city during times of tragedy. 

But now, Nashvillians are providing their support for her and family after Max Barry, the only child of the mayor and her husband Bruce Barry, died Saturday night from an apparent drug overdose.

His death occurred in Littleton, Colo., a suburb of Denver, where the 22-year-old Max Barry had recently moved after graduating college. 

It left Mayor Barry, the public face of Nashville, addressing a deeply personal and devastating tragedy even as she received an overwhelming outpouring of condolences from across the city, state and nation. 

“Early this morning, we received news that no parents should ever have to hear,” Megan and Bruce Barry said in a brief statement Sunday morning. “Our son Max suffered from an overdose and passed away. We cannot begin to describe the pain and heartbreak that comes with losing our only child. Our son was a kind soul full of life and love for his family and friends.

“Our family would greatly appreciate your thoughts and prayers, and would respectfully ask for privacy as we mourn the loss of our child and begin to understand a world without his laughter and love in our lives.”

Max Barry, who graduated from the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma, Wash., this year, attended Eakin Elementary, West End Middle School, and Martin Luther King Academic Magnet High School in Nashville before attending and graduating from University School of Nashville.

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He’s the only child of Megan Barry and Bruce Barry, a professor at the Owen Graduate School of Management at Vanderbilt University and a longtime contributing writer for the Nashville Scene. 

Max Barry graduated from USN in 2013 and stood next to his mother and father in September 2015 when she was sworn-in as the seventh mayor of Nashville’s Metro government and first woman to hold the job. 

Additional details of the death are still unclear. A full toxicology report is not yet available. 

Melinda Rose of the Jefferson County Coroner’s Office in Colorado said an official cause or manner of Max Barry’s death would not be declared until the results of an autopsy, which was to be performed on Sunday.

Barry spokesman Sean Braisted said the mayor would likely relinquish upcoming ceremonial duties to aides or other public officials but will still be available for items that need immediate attention in the coming days in her role as mayor. 

Max Barry had ‘an enormous personality’

Dean Masullo, a teacher at USN and past adviser, described Max Barry as personable, funny and having “an enormous personality.” 

“He was smart, he was personable, he was empathetic, he cared deeply about his friends and his family and he loved his school and all of the people in his life,” Masullo said. “This is an unfathomable tragedy.”

Masullo described Max Barry as a young man who had gone West to find himself. He said he was a lover of the outdoors who had watched his mother’s very public ascendancy from afar while remaining close to his family.

After he graduated from the University of Puget Sound, Masullo said Max Barry moved to the Denver area to see what the city could offer him. He was working in construction while determining his career.

“The one image that sticks with him most is a photograph that was taken when he was in college,” Masullo said. “It was a picture of him out in the West on a lake and he’s with a friend and he’s holding an enormous fish. If I had to summarize Max’s life in a single image, it would probably be that because everything Max did was outsized.

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“I can’t think of a better place for him to have completed his degree or a better place for him to have lived his last days than out West where he was happy.”

Tennessee Court of Appeals Judge Richard Dinkins, a friend of the Barry family who coached Max Barry in baseball and basketball and whose son grew up with him, said Max was a happy kid growing up. 

“He had good friends and his parents loved to entertain and always had him and his friends as a part of that,” Dinkins said.

Dinkins recounted how the mayor confided with him just a few days ago about her comforting a mother in Nashville who had lost a child to gun violence. He said Barry told him that the thought crossed her mind that no mother should have to go through that. 

“Now, she is in that position,” Dinkins said.

“Let her be Megan for a few days, and she will be the mayor when she’s able to do that,” Dinkins said. “Let us let her grieve right now, and be there for her husband, and their family and Max’s friends.”

Condolences from across the nation

Max Barry’s death sent shock waves across Nashville and Tennessee, whose leaders expressed grief, and the news reverberated to mayors across the country who offered their condolences. 

“This is a terrible tragedy that no family should have to suffer,” said U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Nashville. “My heart goes out to Megan and Bruce. They are such wonderful people.” 

“No parent should ever live to see the passing of a child,” Davidson County Sheriff Daron Hall tweeted. “The sheriff’s office family and I send our thoughts and prayers to Mayor Megan Barry.” 

“Our hearts break for Mayor Megan Barry,” New York Mayor Bill de Blasio wrote on Twitter. “Please keep her family in your thoughts.” 

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“Heartbroken,” wrote The Rev. John Faison Sr., pastor of Watson Grove Church in Nashville. “May God’s strength be yours, Mayor Megan Barry. Praying for you and your family. Nashville, let’s love this family through.” 

Following the announcement of Max’s death, condolences began to pour in: 

Follow Joey Garrison and Jordan Buie on Twitter: @joeygarrison and @JordanBuie

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