George Thomas “Mickey” Leland was a six-term U.S. Congressman and Texas state representative who was best known for focusing much-needed attention on issues of health and hunger. He was an effective spokesman and rallied support for the hungry, which resulted in both public and private action to reduce hunger in the U.S. and throughout the world.
Mr. Leland was born on November 27, 1944, in Lubbock, Texas, to Alice and George Leland II. He moved to Houston’s Fifth Ward at a young age with his mother and brother. In 1964, he graduated in the top ten percent of his class from Houston’s Phyllis Wheatley High School. While attending Texas Southern University (TSU), he became a vocal leader of the local civil rights movement and brought national leaders of the movement to Houston. He graduated from TSU’s School of Pharmacy in 1970 with a Bachelor of Science. From 1972 to 1977, he served in the Texas state legislature in Austin representing Houston’s 88th District. As a state representative, he became famous as a champion of health care rights for the poor.
In 1978, Mr. Leland was elected to the United States Congress from the 18th Congressional District in Houston. His ability to reach out to others with innovative ideas and to gain support from unlikely sources was key to his success in effectively addressing the problems of the poor and minorities. Congressman Leland led an eight-member House of Representatives delegation on a tour of famine stricken areas in Ethiopia. Increasingly active in international human rights and world hunger issues, he worked tirelessly to solve the problems of hunger and malnutrition around the world. On August 7, 1989 while leading a humanitarian mission to a United Nations refugee camp, his plane crashed in a mountainous region of Ethiopia. He was accompanied on this trip by members of his staff, State Department officials, and Ethiopian nationals. There were no survivors.
In 2000, then-Secretary of Energy Bill Richardson renamed the Office of Fossil Energy's Minority Education Initiative as the Mickey Leland Energy Fellowship, making the more than 100 interns of the class of 2000 the first Mickey Leland Energy Fellows. Mr. Richardson stated that the ceremony to honor the late Congressman would be a way to “remember a great American who dedicated his life to expanding human potential.” He added that he “could find no better way to honor [Mr. Leland’s] memory than to endow his name on a program that will elevate the opportunities for future generations of minority students.”