Celebrating Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
by MSTA Maryland State Teacher's Association
January 15, 2005
Professor Leggett’s distinguished service to his community, the people of Montgomery County and the state of Maryland proves his dedication to the principles of human dignity and respect for people of all races, nationalities, genders and sexual orientation. He has lived these principles and demonstrated to citizens that effective advocacy of full civil rights for all persons can be achieved collaboratively and peacefully. His leadership has been instrumental in raising standards of human decency and equality for Montgomery County, Maryland, but his work in these areas did not begin there.
Mr. Leggett’s involvement in the quest for civil rights began in his student days at Southern University in Louisiana. Not known for its tolerance of diversity during the 1960s, Louisiana was the unwitting incubator for many great civil rights leaders, including lsiah Leggett. As Student Government President at Southern University, Mr. Leggett led demonstrations in support of civil rights for African Americans. Sadly, as was the custom at that time in Louisiana, he was jailed for his leading role in advocating for civil rights. Despite the consequences, Mr. Leggett persisted in his activities in a non-violent manner that inspired other students and community residents.
Ike Leggett, as he is fondly called by people who know him in Maryland, has had a remarkable academic career that includes achieving a Master of Laws degree from The George Washington University and a Juris Doctorate degree from Howard University. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Howard University Law School, holding the third highest academic average in the law school’s history. In 1985, he received the Outstanding Alumni Award from Howard University Law School.
Mr. Leggett worked as an administrative aide to Congressman Parren Mitchell of Maryland’s 7th Congressional District. His most notable contribution was providing support necessary to the Congressman in achieving passage of minority procurement legislation. Thanks to Ike Leggett’s efforts, thousands of minority businesses have benefited from a more level playing field in the U.S. economy. Countless numbers of minority entrepreneurs have been encouraged in their efforts by this federal legislation.
In 1981, Mr. Leggett was appointed to the Montgomery County Human Relations Commission. He served as chairman of the Commission from 1983-1986. During his tenure, he advocated successfully for the modification of the Human Relations Code to include sexual orientation as a protected category from discrimination. Montgomery County was the first jurisdiction in Maryland to take that step. His efforts led to the eventual modification of state civil rights regulations to include sexual orientation. Under his leadership, the Montgomery County Human Relations Commission gained state and national prominence for its progressive advocacy on behalf of all persons.
Ike Leggett chaired the Montgomery County Employment Discrimination Review Panel from 1982-1986. He lent his strong leadership to the process that had a zero tolerance policy of discrimination. Residents of the community were well served by his staunch advocacy for the companion values of human dignity and equal opportunity for all.
Mr. Leggett was the first African American to be elected to the Montgomery County Council in 1986 and he served as council vice president and president. His presence on the council had a profound impact on the community. It paved the way for other people of color to aspire to and achieve electoral success in county government.
Another aspect of Leggett’s lasting legacy in human and civil rights was the development of a mentoring program for county youth. Minority youth were the particular beneficiaries of this program, thanks to Ike Leggett’s leadership.
Isiah Leggett’s life exemplifies the values shared by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Leggett has devoted his professional and public life to advocating on behalf of full respect of the worth of each individual and guaranteeing each person the right to pursue whatever their talent and ambition allow. He has assumed personal and professional risks in order to model the values he shares with the late Dr. King and he has left his mark on every institution of society in which he has endeavored.