Mickey Leland

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George Thomas Leland
Mickey Leland.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 18th district
In office
January 3, 1979 – August 7, 1989
Preceded by Barbara Jordan
Succeeded by Craig Washington
Member of the Texas House of Representatives from District 88
In office
Personal details
Born (1944-11-27)November 27, 1944
Lubbock, Texas,
United States
Died August 7, 1989(1989-08-07) (aged 44)
Gambela, Ethiopia
Resting place

Golden Gate Cemetery

Houston, Texas
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Alison Clark Walton-Leland (m. 1983–1989, his death)
Children 3 sons
Alma mater Texas Southern University
Profession Politician
Religion Roman Catholicism

George Thomas "Mickey" Leland (November 27, 1944 – August 7, 1989) was an anti-poverty activist who later became a congressman from the Texas 18th District and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. He was a Democrat.

Early Years[edit]

Born in Lubbock, Texas to the parents of Alice and George Thomas Leland, II. At a very early age, the Lelands moved to Houston's Fifth Ward neighborhood.

Growing up in a predominantly African American and Hispanic neighborhood, Leland attended Wheatley High School in Houston, Texas,[1] where he ranked in the top ten percent of his class when he graduated from Wheatley in 1964. While attending Texas Southern University in the late 1960s, he emerged as a vocal leader of the Houston-area civil rights movement and had brought national leaders of the movement to Houston. Leland graduated from Texas Southern in 1970 with a Bachelor's degree in Pharmacy. He served as an Instructor of Clinical Pharmacy at his alma mater from 1970–71, where he set up "door-to-door" outreach campaigns in low-income neighborhoods to inform people about their medical care options and performing preliminary screenings.

It was during the administration of then-Texas Southern University President Leonard O. Spearman, where Leland received an honorary doctorate degree from his alma mater.

Service in the Texas House of Representatives[edit]

In 1972, Texas for the first time allowed its State House of Representatives and Senate seats to be elected as single-member districts. Soon after the decision, five minority candidates (dubbed the "People's Five"), including eventual winners Leland, Craig Washington and Benny Reyes ran for district seats in the Texas House of Representatives, a first for a state that, although Barbara Jordan had been a state senator, had not seen any African-American state representatives since Reconstruction.

Re-elected in 1974 and again in 1976, Leland served three two-year terms in the Texas House of Representatives, representing the 88th District and while in Austin, he became famous for being a staunch advocate of healthcare rights for poor Texans. He was also responsible for the passage of legislation that provided low-income consumers with access to affordable generic drugs. Also supported the creation of healthcare access through Health Maintenance Organizations (HMO's). In order to accomplish his goals in Austin, Leland served on the Texas State Labor Committee, State Affairs Committee, Human Resources Committee, Legislative Council, and the Subcommittee on Occupational and Industrial Safety. He was elected the Vice-Chairman of the Joint Committee on Prison Reform including becoming the first African American to serve on the Senate-House conference Committee as a member of the House Appropriations Committee.

U.S. Congressman from Texas' 18th District[edit]

After six years in the Texas State Legislature, Leland was elected to the United States House of Representatives in November 1978 to represent Texas' 18th District and was re-elected easily in 1980, 1982, 1984, 1986 and again in 1988 to six two-year terms, serving until his death. The congressional district included the neighborhood where he had grown up, and he was recognized as a knowledgeable advocate for health, children and the elderly. His leadership abilities were immediately noticed in Washington, and he was named to serve as Freshman Majority Whip in his first term, and later served twice as At-Large Majority Whip.

Mickey Leland International Terminal D at Houston's George Bush Intercontinental Airport is named after Leland.

Leland was an effective advocate on hunger and public health issues. In 1984 Leland established the congressional select committee on Hunger and initiated a number of programs designed to assuage the famine crises that plagued Ethiopia and Sudan through much of the 1980s. Leland pioneered many afro-centric cultural norms in Washington which included wearing a dashiki and African style hats.[2]

In 1989 Leland died[3] in a plane crash in Gambela, Ethiopia during a mission to Fugnido, Ethiopia. A total of fifteen people, including Leland, died in the crash. His friend and former fellow Texas legislator, Craig Washington, ran for and was elected to his unexpired congressional term in December 1989.

Since Mr. Leland's death, a number of buildings, initiatives, etc. have been renamed to honor Mr. Leland:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Distinguished HISD Alumni," Houston Independent School District
  2. ^ Leland, Mickey. Handbook of Texas Online. Last accessed November 10, 2006.
  3. ^ Hiltzik, Michael A. "Leland crash leaves no survivors." Los Angeles Times at the Boca Raton News. Monday August 14, 1989. 7th year, Issue 144. 1A. Google News 5 of 34.

External links[edit]

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Barbara Jordan
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Texas's 18th congressional district

Succeeded by
Craig Washington