We Is the Legislature The Class of ’70 Arrives BY PAUL HARASIM WHEN U.S. Congressman Mickey Leland addressed the National Urban League con vention currently under way in Our Town, the lawmaker who’s come up with some impressive ideas for curing the social ills of our time never told the audience he once was sure he had found a way to prevent homo sapiens from getting worms. It turns out that Houston pharmacist Al Hopkins, who was appointed to the state pharmacy board when Mickey was a state legislator, learned of Mickey’s alleged discovery from the Congressman’s high school biology teacher. “It seems Mickey had a beaker full of water and one full of alcohol in the lab,” Al said. “He put one worm in water and he watched it swim around. And then he put another worm in alcohol and he watched it die immediately. “So Mickey told his teacher, ‘I’ll tell you one thing. If you drink alcohol, you won’t get worms.’ ” UNDERSTAND MICKEY It was just the other day that Al and many other movers and shakers on hand to roast Mickey at the downtown Hyatt Regency \(the festivities benefited the American Heart insight into the Congressman that probably would have helped members of the Urban League better understand the man who served as chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus for the 99th Congress. Even Texas State Treasurer Ann Richards was on hand to give the feminist viewpoint of Mickey. “I’m one of the few women in Mickey’s past who’s respectable enough to sit at the head table,” she said. POETRY If there was ever any doubt that the roast would be a classy event, that doubt was quickly erased when Ann pulled out a huge music box, shoved in a tape, and began to play rap-type background music. \(When the salads arrived and Dr. Red Duke, the master of ceremonies, leaped to Paul Harasim is a columnist at the Houston Post where this article appeared in 1987. FILE PHOTO Mickey Leland, circa 1970 the microphone to say, “I’m glad to see they’re bringing some high fiber to begin with,” you had a pretty good idea that the Anyway, as the rap-type music exploded in the banquet room, Ann then was kind enough to scream a soulful poem that brought tears to this columnist’s eyes: Everybody listen to me I’m here talking about Mickey. He’s got class, he’s got clout, He’s so cool, we all chill out. MICKEY’S STYLE Virtually everyone who came to talk about Mickey mentioned the way he’s dressed during his days in government including his flowing African dashikis accompanied by a pretty handbag and platform shoes. Mickey carrying his purse really didn’t phase us . . . And then Kathy Whitmire lent him an outfit and now you can’t get him out of a threepiece suit. BEN REMEMBERS It was in the early ’70s that Mickey first became a member of the Texas Legislature. Houston City Councilman Ben Reyes, then a state legislator, recalled how he, Mickey, and state legislator Craig Washington drove up to Austin. “Craig had an Afro and a brand new Cadillac, Mickey had a dashiki and I had a mustache. We drove up to the capitol in the car and Craig said, ‘I think this is where we park.’ “A little old guard walked up and said, `You can’t park here, this is for members of the Legislature.’ Craig looked at the guard and said, ‘We is members of the Legislature.’ “The guard just looked away and said, `Oh, hell, what’s happening to this state’ . . . the guard retired two weeks later.” RODNEY REMEMBERS When Mickey entered the ’80s as a U.S. Congressman, Rodney Ellis, now a Houston City Councilman, was his aide. If you believe Rodney, the Washington, D.C., neighborhood where he and Mickey lived was vaguely reminiscent of living in Hue during the North Vietnamese Tet offensive of 1968. “I could never figure out why we were living in the apartment we were in,” Rodney said. “I had tried several times to get him to move.” On one occasion, Rodney and Mickey were both out of town on speaking engagements when thieves hit their townhouse. “They stole all my suits,” Rodney said. “I asked members of the Congressman’s staff which clothes of his were taken. And they said none of his were. So I told the staff to go in there and take all of his clothes the zootsuits and his purses and his platform shoes and throw them all away. “When we got back, the Congressman just assumed that they were stolen. That was the way I finally got him to change his style of dress . . .” RODNEY REMEMBERS II When Rodney accompanied Mickey on a trip to Cuba, he recalled how the Congressman tried to pay Fidel Castro for the gas necessary to refuel their plane. “I couldn’t believe it, but he was actually trying to pay with his American Express Card.” LI 12 DECEMBER 29, 1989
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