Leggett takes next step on life’s road
By Chuck Lyons
January 15, 2003
Hundreds of people gathered last week for one of those big
bashes at the Indian Spring Country Club where they paid $125
for a piece of stuffed chicken and something that resembled
salmon for a salute to Ike Leggett.
Hank Boyd, a friend and neighbor who joined the effort at a
good-natured roasting of Ike, quipped that he did not understand
paying $125 for a chicken dinner. He asked his friend what this
chicken dinner would have cost them at Popeye’s.
Of course, Hank knew that somewhere in the price of that
ticket along with the sponsorship gifts was enough money to
endow scholarships for two full-time students at Montgomery
College in Ike Leggett’s name.
Political insiders and Ike’s colleagues are trying to figure
out what his next step will be after serving 16 years on the
Montgomery County Council as its only member from the
Probably he would like to know that, too. He is 57, has a
full-time job as a law professor at Howard University and has
taken over as chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party
following Republican Robert Ehrlich’s defeat of Kathleen Kennedy
Townsend in the governor’s race.
Leading the Democrats in Maryland may be just the right job
for Ike and for that party. Unlike many politicians, he is a
listener and a thinker, fascinated by the intertwining of public
service, governance and politics.
During the mast, he sat on stage next to the podium with a
long, stoic look, breaking a smile at the right times to fit the
tenor of the evening.
But, the most poignant moment of the evening was near the end
when The People’s Community Baptist Church Praise Team took the
stage behind Ike to sing one of his favorite songs.
If you looked closely, you could see some of the words of the
song passing though Ike’s lips: “I don’t believe He brought me
this far to leave me ... I’ve come too far to give up ... Nobody
said the road would be easy.”
No matter how far we have traveled, no matter how much we
have achieved, no matter how many accolades have come our way,
we are never very far from where we began.
For Ike Leggett, his road connects to rural Louisiana, a
family of 13 children, and a mother who became the heroine of
He pleaded his way into Louisiana’s Southern University, took
the physical abuse of leading a civil rights protest and
survived a tour of Vietnam with three medals. He also was a
White House Fellow and graduated with a law degree from Howard
Ike also got lucky along the way when he met his wife,
Catherine, today a successful corporate executive and a person
with like values and philosophy about life. Theirs is a love
story. They clearly were meant to find each other and the world
is better, happier, more thoughtful because of the energy that
flows from their lives.
Before Ike’s closing remarks at the tribute, Catherine took
the stage to give us her take on this man of the hour.
Even though Catherine is not a Baptist, she took a page out
of Second Corinthians and another out of Romans in the Bible to
show how Ike’s faith was the foundation for his humility, his
stewardship, his caring and his desire to do the right thing
wherever he is and to never quit in hard times.
When Ike took the podium, he thanked his wife for the
spiritual lesson she had shared. He also was grateful for the
scholarships and the hope that others would discover that
education, hard work and faith can carry you to worthy places in
And then the evening ended. And Ike stepped down off the
stage and back onto the road he has traveled for 57 years, not
knowing necessarily where it will lead but knowing how to walk
Chuck Lyons is president and publisher of The Gazette.