Melvin Williams, notorious as the man behind an illegal drugs empire in 1970s Baltimore who later reformed and ultimately appeared on HBO’s The Wire died this morning at 73 from undisclosed causes.

Born in 1941, Williams became involved in the drug trade in the 1960s, first achieving notoriety after helping to quell riots in the wake of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. He became involved seriously in drug trafficking in the 1970s through the early 80s, amassing a fortune he later claimed to be in the hundreds of millions, until his 1984 arrest on cocaine trafficking charges. He was sentenced to 34 years in prison in 1985.

While in prison, he was the subject of a series of articles written by future co-creator of The Wire David Simon, published by the Baltimore Sun in 1987. He was paroled in 1996, returned to prison on an assault charge in 2000, and released again in 2003.

After his final release he renounced crime and worked alongside local ministers, and was cast in a supporting role as The Deacon during the third season of The Wire.