George Thomas “Mickey” Leland (November 27, 1944 – August 7, 1989) was an anti-poverty activist who later became a congressman from the Texas 18th District and chair of the Congressional Black Caucus. He was a Democrat.
In 1972, Texas for the first time allowed its State House of Representatives and Senate seats to be elected as single-member districts. Soon after the decision, five minority candidates (dubbed the “People’s Five“), including eventual winners Leland, Craig Washington and Benny Reyes ran for district seats in the Texas House of Representatives, a first for a state that, although Barbara Jordan had been a state senator, had not seen any African-American state representatives since Reconstruction. Leland remained in the state legislature until he was elected to Congress in 1979. He remained in Congress until his death, being reelected to the United States House of Representatives every two years.
Leland was an effective advocate on hunger and public health issues. In 1984 Leland established the congressional select committee on Hunger and initiated a number of programs designed to assuage the famine crises that plagued Ethiopia and Sudan through much of the 1980s. Leland pioneered many afro-centrtic cultural norms in Washington which included wearing a dashiki and African style hats.
In 1989 Leland died in a plane crash in Gambela, Ethiopia during a mission to Fugnido, Ethiopia. A total of fifteen people, including Leland, died in the crash. His friend and former fellow Texas legislator, Craig Washington, ran for and was elected to his unexpired Congressional term in December 1989.
A Federal building in Downtown Houston (which currently serves as the Congressional headquarters for his most recent successor, Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee) was named in his honor, and the International Terminal (Terminal D) at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston is also named after him as well as a street in Addis Ababa. The USAID Leland Initiative to improve internet connectivity in Africa was named after Mickey Leland. A large number of other government programs, fellowships, and academic organizations have also been named in his memory.
Singer songwriter Pierce Pettis included a song about Leland on his 1991 album Tinseltown.