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Texas Originals

Congressman George Thomas “Mickey” Leland

One of the first African-Americans elected to the Texas Legislature and a man who died trying to feed the hungry in Africa.


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Mickey Leland actively speaking into a microphone. 1971.
Mickey Leland actively speaking into a microphone. 1971.

George Thomas "Mickey" Leland
November 27, 1944–August 7, 1989


When the Texas House of Representatives met in January 1973, three of the new members were the first African Americans elected to the House since Reconstruction. One of these, twenty-eight-year-old Mickey Leland, entered the Capitol wearing an Afro and a vibrant dashiki. The New York Times described him as "a jolt to the conservative Texas body."

Mickey Leland
Image courtesy of the Office of the Clerk, U.S. House of Representatives

Raised in Houston, Leland was committed to providing jobs for minorities and health care for the poor. After earning a degree in pharmacy from Texas Southern University, he pushed city officials to establish public health clinics in low-income communities.

Leland remained in the state legislature until 1978, when he won Barbara Jordan's seat in the U.S. Congress. In Washington, he continued to fight for social justice and minority rights.

Leland is best remembered for his fight to end global starvation. He helped create the House Select Committee on World Hunger and in 1985, urged Congress to send $800 million in famine relief funds to Africa. Tragically, on his sixth trip to Africa, a plane carrying Leland and fifteen others crashed en route to a refugee camp in Ethiopia.

Leland often quoted the Talmud, saying, "If you save one life, you save the whole world." Today, the Congressional Hunger Center honors his legacy through the Mickey Leland International Hunger Fellows Program, which trains leaders in ending global starvation.


For More about Mickey Leland

The Congressional Hunger Center offers images of and biographical information about Mickey Leland.

The Mickey Leland Center on World Hunger and Peace at Texas Southern University offers biographical information on Representative Leland as well as his papers and photographs.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality offers The Mickey Leland Environmental Internship Program for college students hoping to learn about environmental issues.


“This I Believe” with state Senator Rodney Ellis pays tribute to his mentor and friend, the late Congressman Mickey Leland


Mickey Leland at UH
Mickey Leland yelling into a microphone at the University Center, 1971.

Selected Bibliography

Barr, Alwyn. Black Texans: A History of African Americans in Texas, 1528–1995. 2nd ed. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1996.

Belkin, Lisa. "Representative Mickey Leland, 44, Dies in Crash." New York Times, August 14, 1989: D9.

“Leland, George Thomas (Mickey)." in Black Americans in Congress, 1870­–2007. Prepared under the direction of the Committee on House Administration by the Office of History & Preservation, U. S. House of Representatives. Washington: Government Printing Office, 2008.

Leland, Mickey. "The Politics of Hunger Among Blacks," The Black Scholar, Vol. 21, No. 1, January–February 1990.

Seeber, Jill S. “Leland, George Thomas [Mickey],” Handbook of Texas Online (, accessed August 20, 2012. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

This article was first published on June 27, 2014.