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Friends & Mentors

Lee P. Brown

Police Chief of Houston (1982  – 1990) and Mayor of Houston (1998 – 2004).   

My dear friend and and close colleague Lee P. Brown served as the first black Chief of Police for the city of Houston and the first black Mayor for the City of Houston.  Most of my tenure on Houston’s city council was during Mayor Brown’s extraordinary care and direction for the City of Houston.  Brown had an excellent eye for international relationships making a pivotal trip to Africa and directing important international initiatives.  Brown continues to be a progressive, positive and invaluable force for Houston.

Bob Lanier

In the memory of the great progressive Mayor of Houston, Robert Clayton “Bob” Lanier (1925 – 2014),   Bob Lanier served as Mayor of Houston from 1992 – 1998.     We  revisit Houston’s successful fight to put down the reversal of Affirmative Action by making it a ballot box issue with clear language.  The move to strip away the power of Affirmative Action started with California’s Proposition 209.  Once the language was clear and communicated to us, we stopped it right here in Houston.

A debate on The City of Houston’s Affirmative Action Program Hosted by Greg Abbott with Bob Lanier and Ed Blum.

Mickey Leland

It was a great pleasure to serve as the Associate Director of The Mickey Leland Center on World Hunger and Peace at Texas Southern University and become the caretaker of Mickey’s legacy from 2002 to 2012.  The Mickey Leland archives are now open for research and available to the public both in person and online at   http://digitalscholarship.tsu.edu/mla/

In 2014, I returned to the center, this time as a researcher to dig deeper into the archives.

In the Mickey Leland Archives at Texas Southern University 2014

In the Mickey Leland Archives at Texas Southern University 2014

More research in the archives.

More research in the archives.

Statement of Mickey Leland 1987

Statement of Mickey Leland 1987

For interviews and to learn more information on Mickey Leland please contact me.

Without a doubt one of my life’s greatest honors has been to work with and alongside the legendary and iconic Congressman lost to us on August 7, 1989, George Thomas “Mickey” Leland.

Mickey leads fight for Brandley case (better image coming soon)

Mickey leads fight for Brandley case

The Honorable George Thomas “Mickey” Leland III (D-Texas) is an American original, a national hero and world champion fighter against hunger, homelessness and poverty.  Leland dutifully served the minority and impoverished constituents of his 18th congressional district in Houston Texas as a legislator from 1972 to 1978.  Afterwards, he applied his influence and unrivaled statesmanship in the U.S. Congress.

From his beginnings in the Texas legislature, Mickey focused the nation’s attention on the problems of hunger and poverty in America, across the globe and with special attention on Africa.  Both Mickey and I, separately, visited Africa on several occasions.  His concern for eliminating hunger led him to the belief that homelessness, poverty and inequality threatened democracy and were enemies to the prosperity of all people.  His was the voice for those with fewer resources whose life chances were limited by inequalities of education, economics and politics.  In his words it was “a fight to save our humanity” in America, Africa and everywhere that human suffering existed.
As a United States Mickey became a recognizable global face for democracy and the ideals of American freedom, equality and justice.

Mickey was there on the front lines fighting injustice and when and if any of his fellow protesters were caught in the traps of injustice, including myself, he was right there to help them out.

He displayed extraordinary bi-partisan legislative leadership and political flexibility by co-authoring legislation that convinced the Congress to establish the House Select Committee on Hunger in 1983.  He also led efforts to secure $800M in funding for drought stricken areas of the world during the Reagan administration.  The current Congressional Hunger Center formed its basis from Leland’s House Select Committee on Hunger.  His efforts culminated in the landmark Hunger Prevention Act of 1988 and the Mickey Leland Memorial Domestic Hunger Relief Act in 1990.
For his sophisticated legislative achievements and efforts toward ending hunger, Leland was posthumously awarded a Presidential Hunger Award in 1989.

It was truly a privilege to know and work with Mickey Leland.

Mickey Leland provided the framework and advocacy for the homeless that led to the adoption of the 1987 McKinney Act which was the first legislation comprehensively addressing the problem of homelessness in America.  He also introduced legislation that extended Medicaid to women, infants and children.
He also served in numerous leadership positions within the Democratic Party in addition to serving as Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.  His tireless work toward solving humanitarian issues and achieving legislative victories was remarkable in a time that required collaboration and consensus amongst divided political, social and economic interest.  Leland garnered support across party lines, from constituents rich and poor, from celebrities, sports figures, academics and scholars at a time when the country was heading toward retrenchment.  He displayed a unique ability to convince differing elected officials to join him in developing policies that advanced Human Rights.  Leland mastered qualities desperately needed today’s partisan political gridlock in the U.S. Congress.

Mickey Leland equally displayed extraordinary leadership in civic and public affairs by morally advocating for the democratic rights and Civil Rights of racial minorities, women, the elderly, the homeless, the poor and any human beings of any race, gender or life condition in need of help.  Congressman Leland fought for prison reform, emergency shelters, health education, affirmative action, budget equity in higher education, increased minority business and infant mortality reduction.  Leland’s resource and connection building became a model of effective advocacy in an era of recession and shrinking resources.

Mickey Leland and Jew Don Boney

Mickey Leland and Jew Don Boney

In addition to his national profile, Mickey Leland became a significant international figure.  Leland met with Fidel Castro and negotiated the release of Texans held in Cuba.  He also met with the Soviet Union President Mikhail S. Gorbachev and discussed race relations in the United States.  Leland’s efforts were essential in influencing the Ethiopian’s government release of sequestered Jews.  Leland also fought to end the starvation in the Sudan caused by conditions that continue to exist to this day.

All of these accomplishments are a part of the historical record of Congressperson Leland embodied in the Leland Archives and Collection at Texas Southern University for which I was the Associate Director from 2001 until 2013.  Mickey Leland served the United States, the world and humanity with intelligence, imagination, courage and love.

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George Thomas “Mickey” Leland, III, was born on November 27, 1944, in Lubbock, Texas, to Alice and George Thomas Leland, II. At an early age, he, along with his mother and brother (William Gaston Leland), took up residence in the Fifth Ward of Houston, Texas.

Leland showed early promise as a student. He ranked in the top ten percent of his class when he graduated in 1964 from Phyllis Wheatley High School in Houston, Texas.

While attending Texas Southern University (TSU) in the late sixties, Leland was a vocal leader of the local civil rights movement. He graduated from TSU’s School of Pharmacy in 1970 with a Bachelor of Science in Pharmacy. He served as an Instructor of Clinical Pharmacy at his alma mater from 1970 – 71. Later, during the administration of former President Leonard O. Spearman in 1982, Leland received an honorary doctorate degree from TSU.

In 1972, Mickey Leland was elected to the Texas House of Representatives from the 88th District of Houston, Texas. He served in the Texas Legislature until 1978. In Austin, Leland became famous as the champion of health care rights for the poor. He served on the Labor Committee, State Affairs Committee, Human Resources Committee, Legislative Council, and Subcommittee on Occupational and Industrial Safety. Leland was elected Vice Chairman of the Joint Committee on Prison Reform.

He married the former Alison Clark Walton, a Georgetown University law student, in 1983. Congressman Leland fathered three children, Jarrett David (born February 6, 1986) and twins, Austin Mickey and Cameron George (born January 14, 1990, after Leland’s death).
He was first elected the United States legislature in 1978 as the successor to Barbara Jordan.  Similar to Leland, Barbara Jordan broke down numerous racial barriers that had existed since Reconstruction.  As an African American woman with enormous presence and oratorical skills, Jordan established historical precedents that continued to resonate during Leland’s term.  Jordan first as the State Senator and subsequently the first African American woman elected to Congress from the South since Reconstruction.  She was a product of the Civil Rights movement and established herself as an effective member of Congress, focused on Voting Rights.
Congressman Leland continued to carry this mantle pleading the causes of democracy and equity for the hungry and poor in America and the rest of the world.  He uniquely combined the boundless inspiration of John Kennedy, with the democratic vision of Barbra Jordan and Dr. Martin Luther King, and the sensitive compassion of Mother Theresa with the universal humanism of Gandhi all within an ethic of loving his neighbor and being his brother’s keeper. He was a product of the later Black empowerment movement, and the broader American movement for democracy and equity. Thus, his selection as successor to Barbara Jordan represented the continuity of the historic struggle for social justice and democracy for the people of the 18th District and the people of the world.

George Thomas “Mickey” Leland served for six years in the Texas House of Representatives (1972-1978) and then was elected to Congress, succeeding the retiring Barbara Jordan. Congressman Leland was re-elected to each succeeding Congress, serving 11 years until his death in August 1989.

Recognition of Leland’s extraordinary leadership skills was evident to his colleagues immediately upon his election to Congress.  He began his U.S. House term as Freshman Majority Whip for the 96th Congress in 1979-80 and served as Majority Whip At-Large during the 97th Congress. Leland was appointed At-Large Whip by the House leadership for the 100th Congress.

While chairing the House Select Committee on Hunger, Leland was a member of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and the Subcommittees on Telecommunications and Finance, Health and the Environment, and Energy and Power. He chaired the Subcommittee on Postal Operations and Services and served on the Committee on Post Office and Civil Service and the Subcommittee on Compensation and Employment.

During 1985-86 Congressman Leland served as Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) for the 99th Congress. The CBC was created in 1971 with only 13 members. By 1987, the CBC had grown to 23 members.

Leland was also a member of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) from 1976-1985. He served as Chairman of the DNC’s Black Caucus in 1985, and in that capacity, he served on the DNC’s Executive Committee.

When Leland died in 1989, he was Chairman of the House Select Committee on Hunger, the first of its kind. The mandate of the committee was to conduct a continuing comprehensive study and review of the problems associated with domestic and international hunger and malnutrition.

Leland combined the skills of the charismatic leader with the power of a sophisticated behind-the-scenes congressman. He matured during his years in Congress into a brilliantly effective and influential advocate for health care rights for every human being.

Mickey Leland died tragically in a plane crash during a Congressional humanitarian mission to Africa in 1989, along with members of his legislative staff, and others.  He was 44 years old.

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