An alumnus of TSU, Leland graduated in 1970 with a degree in pharmacy and was a Texas House Representative for the 88th district, serving six years. He later went on to serve as a U.S. House of Representative for six terms representing Texas' 18th district.
"[The] tribute is symbolic and illustrates to each of us that the works and good deeds of the honorable Mickey Leland are not forgotten for those of us here at Texas Southern University, this is his home," said TSU Interim President, Dr. Mary Evans-Sias. "This will become a place where many young scholars will come. walk in the path he walked and hopefully do as good in their walk as he did."
During his years of public service, Leland fought to bring awareness to issues like health care and hunger, passing legislation that many say is still making a difference today. His efforts created the National Commission on infant mortality, easier access to fresh food for women, children, and infants at-risk, and the first comprehensive services for people with home insecurity.
Cleo Glenn-Johnson McLaughlin, a former staff member for Leland said, the work he put in years ago opened up for many changes we have today.
"We still benefit from the remnants of what Mickey was all about," she said. "He had done much for many all over this world and we're still reaping from the fact that there was a man who was born and raised in Fifth Ward, who decided to go forward and become an instrument of our peace."
Leland's advocacy stretched not only across the United States, but to places like Cuba and Africa. He brought many leaders and organizations together to create general public support for the Africa Famine Relief and Recovery Act of 1985 – providing $800 million in food and humanitarian relief supplies. Leland's work didn't stop there, he had a hand in Energy and Commerce, Telecommunications and Finance, Postal Operations and Services and more.
While on another mission trip in Africa, Leland died in a plane crash in Ethiopia in 1989. Many of Leland's friends and family were in attendance praising him for his advocacy as a leader throughout his life.
Allison Leland, Mickey's late wife, said it's comforting to know his legacy is being kept alive.
"For me, Mickey has always been a beautiful mosaic and pieces of a puzzle continuously put together. I'll be out in the community or at Walgreens and a stranger or friend will come up to me and tell me a piece of a story about Mickey, and I find it fascinating," she said. "It is really important that he is missed and remembered – he really deserves to be."
The historical marker is in front of the University’s Public Affairs school, which is named in his honor along with other government buildings in Houston.