George Thomas “Mickey” Leland was America’s most effective spokesman for hungry people in the United States and throughout the world. During six terms in the Congress, six years as a Texas state legislator and, Democratic National Committee official, he focused much needed attention on issues of health and hunger and rallied support that resulted in both public and private action. 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 food security and health care rights for every human being. When Mickey Leland died in 1989, he was Chairman of the House Select Committee on Hunger. His committee studied the problems associated with domestic and international hunger and then delivered the practical solution of food.
Early Life and Education 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. Growing up in a predominately African American and Hispanic neighborhood, Leland’s first experience with the “public” was in a segregated public school. Leland showed early promise as a student, however. He ranked in the top ten percent of his class when he graduated in 1964 from Philis Wheatley High School in Houston, Texas. While attending TSU (Texas Southern University) in the late sixties, Leland emerged as a vocal leader of the local civil rights movement and brought national leaders of the movement to Houston. He graduated from Texas Southern University’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, and set up a “door to door” outreach campaign in low-income neighborhoods to inform people about their medical care options and to perform preliminary screenings. During the same period Mickey Leland organized and led the Black Citizens Action Teams (“Black Cats”) to protest against police brutality. During the administration of President Leonard O. Spearman, Leland received an honorary doctorate degree from Texas Southern University. 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).