A sixteen year old young man is spending the summer at his grandparent’s house in the suburbs of Houston, Texas and is firmly glued to the television. He is an avid reader who loves all types of entertainment as well as news. He is what one would call a “nerd” but the young man is fascinated with the affairs of the world via the news. He has various friends who are from every nationality living in his neighborhood, due in part to his grandparents teaching him that love knows no color.
As he is watching local television, programming is halted with the announcement that Congressman Mickey Leland and his constituent’s plane failed to show up for landing. The young man is firmly ensconced within this story and he doesn’t know why but something draws him to it.
As time progresses, the report come in that Congressman Leland’s plane was found and there were no survivors and the entire state of Texas as well as the teenager begins to grieve for the victims.
George Leland was born November 27, 1944 in Lubbock, Texas and his arrival made his parents and his brother ecstatic. Many will testify that he was loved by his grandfather so much that he publically nicknamed him “Mickey.”
His mother would eventually decide that her children needed better opportunities and decided to move the family to Houston, Texas where she would garner work in various capacities.
She would go on to graduate from college and began a career as an outstanding school teacher. It was during this time that George, now going by Mickey, would begin to excel in various areas of his education. He would go on to graduate from Wheatley High School in 1963 and he immediately enrolled into Texas Southern University. It was there that Mickey would form his leadership capabilities and go on to garner a Degree in Pharmacology.
Being one that had a heart for the disenfranchised, Mickey assisted in creating free clinics in the poverty stricken wards of Houston. As he lay in bed at night, he would toss and turn with the thoughts of those who had no one to speak up for them.
From the homeless man, who had no healthcare to the young woman whose family had no food, he knew that he had to do something. After much thinking and weighing of the options, Mickey decided to run against Democrat Anthony Hall for the retiring Rep. Barbara Jordan’s seat.
He would go on to win after a contentious race against Hall in which, the election required a runoff due to Jordan not endorsing Hall or Mickey. He quickly gained the respect of his colleagues, though he was relegated to two committee's historical assigned to black lawmakers: the Post Office and Civil Service Committee and the Committee on the District of Columbia.
Love would eventually find Mickey and he would go on to court and marry Georgetown University law graduate Alison Walton and they would soon welcome their first child. Mickey dove right into being the ultimate husband and father. You could find him often sharing pictures of his wife and son at the State Capital with his peers.
As time went on, Mickey would find himself heading toward what would be his calling. He was offered the opportunity to visit South Africa for a three month stay and it was there that he was transformed by what he experienced. When famine struck East Africa in the mid-1980s, Leland was an outspoken advocate for alleviating hunger on the continent. Throughout his first two terms, he lobbied for the creation of a congressional committee to focus on world poverty and hunger.
He was also blessed with the news that Alison was expecting twins and Mickey was over the moon with excitement. His life was evolving organically and he could see what his focus was a Congressman and father. Opportunity for servant hood in Africa would come knocking at his door once again and he decided to accept the challenge.
On August 7, 1989, he took advantage of the congressional summer recess to check on the progress of a refugee camp near the Sudanese–Ethiopian border. Shortly after his plane took off from Addis Ababa, it would crash over a mountainous region in Ethiopia while navigating a storm. All 15 people aboard were killed, including Leland and the nation as well as the state of Texas was overcome with grief and to what transpired.
His wife exemplified the epitome of strength during the times of Leland’s Funeral as well as various memorial services. She would give birth to twin boys, Austin Mickey and Cameron George, five months after Mickey's plane crash. Throughout the years, Alison has been instrumental in enhancing her husband’s work in Texas as well as abroad.
She would go on to establish the Mickey Leland Center on World Hunger and Peace at Texas Southern University. It is designed to serve as a state and national resource for information on the problems of global hunger and peace.
That young sixteen year old teenager mentioned earlier was myself. I am forever inspired by Congressman Leland’s life and his gift of servant hood. I only hope that we all can have an ounce of his dedication to his craft.
Legends, Icons and Role Models salute his desire to work for others as well as having a heart for the disenfranchised.
That makes Congressman Mickey Leland a LEGEND!