Page 21


Common Commitment Congressman Mickey Leland, 1985 JOHN SPRAGENS, JR BY RONALD V. DELLUMS Washington MICKEY LELAND WAS the younger brother I never had. The juxtaposition of sadness and pain for his loss and the happy memories of his friendship has been a daily constant in my life since that August afternoon when I first learned that Mickey’s plane was missing in Ethiopia. That sorrow and pain is intensified by the knowledge that I almost went with him on U. S. Representative Ronald V. Dellums represents the 8th Congressional District of California. He served in the U.S. House with Mickey Leland for the duration of Leland’s service. that ill-fated trip. He had asked me to make room on my recess schedule to go to Ethiopia and the Sudan, but two days before we were to leave the brother of one of my senior staff people drowned while trying to save others in a boating accident. I had known him as a friend for almost 20 years and, since he left three young sons behind, I felt it my duty to help assuage their grief at that moment of family crisis. So I opted to stay with the family for the funeral and it was at the grave-site service that I was told that Mickey’s plane was missing. That pain is further compounded by the fact that when I told Mickey that I couldn’t go for personal reasons, he asked one of my staff people, Joyce Williams, to go in my place. A specialist in child nutrition and infant mortality issues, Joyce had worked with Mickey and me for a decade on these issues in the House District of Columbia Subcommittee on Health. Mickey thought that she could provide some fresh insights on what could be done to improve the health care and food distribution programs at Fugnido and other refugee camps. Joyce had already made reservations to take an extended trip in celebration of her 40th birthday, but she was willing to cancel her personal plans because she thought she could “make a contribution.” She asked for my permission to go, and for some words of encouragement to help deal with her long-term fear of flying. I told her to “sleep on it” before deciding. She 6 DECEMBER 29, 1989