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Life & Arts

The Legacy of Congressman George Thomas 'Mickey' Leland

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On this edition of In Black America, producer/host John L. Hanson Jr. speaks with the late Congressman George Thomas “Mickey” Leland.

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

In 1978, he was elected to the United States Congress from the 18th Congressional District in Houston, Texas. His ability to reach out to others with innovative ideas and to gain support from unlikely sources was a key to his success in effectively addressing the problems of the poor and minorities. Leland began his Congressional career as Freshman Majority Whip for the 96th Congress in 1979-80 and served as Majority Whip At-Large during the 97th Congress. He was appointed At-Large Whip by the House leadership for the 100th Congress. While in the United States Congress he chaired the House Select Committee on Hunger and the Subcommittee on Postal Operations and Services. Leland was a member of the committee on Energy and Commerce, Health and Environment, Energy and Power, and Post Office and Civil Service. He also served as a member of Subcommittees on Telecommunications and Finance, Postal Operations and Services, Compensation and Employment.

Leland was a member of the Democratic National Committee  (DNC) from 1976-1985. In 1984, he led an eight-member House delegation to Ethiopia on a tour of famine-stricken areas. Between 1985-86, he served as Chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus for the 99th Congress. Also, he served as Chairman of the DNC’s Black Caucus in 1985, and in that capacity, served on the DNC’s Executive Committee.

In 1988, Leland was becoming increasingly active in international human rights and world hunger issues. He worked endlessly to solve the problems of domestic and international hunger and malnutrition. On August 7, 1989, Leland was leading another humanitarian mission when a plane carrying him, members of his Congressional staff, State Department officials, and Ethiopian nationals to a United Nations refugee camp in Ethiopia crashed in a mountainous region. There were no survivors.