Skip to main content


August 7, 2009
Paul Pendergraft

Senator Ellis' public service began a generation ago while working for the late Congressman Mickey Leland. The impact of that relationship still motivates Senator Ellis today, 20 years after the Congressman's untimely death and it's the focus of the Senator’s essay for KUHF's This I Believe.

Rodney Ellis is a native Houstonian and is serving his sixth term in the Texas Senate, representing his home town. Ellis’ public service has deep roots and dates back more than 20 years. Prior to his current office, Rodney Ellis served three terms on Houston City Council. Before that, he served as an aide to Congressman Mickey Leland and that’s where Rodney Ellis learned the importance of public service. The political lessons learned from Congressman Mickey Leland are still being practiced by Senator Ellis today. Ellis believes he’s a better man, a better husband, a better father and a better public servant because of Mickey Leland’s guiding spirit.

Ellis holds a Bachelor’s degree from Texas Southern University, a Master’s degree from the Lyndon B Johnson School of Public Affairs and a law degree from the University of Texas, School of Law.

Rodney Ellis is married to Licia Green-Ellis and has four children.

Here’s Senator Rodney Ellis with his essay for KUHF’s This I Believe.

“I believe individuals can impact the course of the world beyond the span of their natural lifetimes.

The late Congressman Mickey Leland was a friend and a true mentor for me and many others. He dedicated his life to giving back and championing the causes of poor and disempowered people around the world.

As a member of Congress, he fought tirelessly for those less privileged on issues such as affordable housing, universal access to health care, and civil rights. Mickey's efforts and passion to serve others could not be confined to the boundaries of his congressional district in Houston, or the borders of this nation, because Mickey Leland understood that the struggle for human rights is global and that, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote from a Birmingham jail, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

My life in public service began as an aide to Mickey Leland in the 1980's. Since that time, I have gone from an aide to a member of Congress to a member of the Texas State Senate. This position allows me to represent over 700,000 people of various racial, social, and economic backgrounds. This has given me the opportunity to live my life fighting for the common good that Mickey Leland so passionately believed in.

Mickey inspired me to advocate for criminal justice reforms to prevent people from being wrongfully incarcerated. Mickey's life also inspired me to create one of the largest student financial aid programs in the history of Texas to help more low-income kids in our state go to college and also to develop the Legislative Internship Program, patterned after a program he started when I worked for him. In the last 18 years, this internship program has given over 300 students the opportunity to become key public policy makers in government.

Throughout my various positions and experiences, Mickey Leland's legacy has remained a constant motivation. It is with me in every fight on the floor of the Texas Senate, in every country I visit, in every interaction with a constituent, and in every lesson I try to teach my staff, interns, and my own children.

I believe social progress is made by individuals who acknowledge, embrace, and sacrifice for the common good and, in so doing, inspire others. Congressman Mickey Leland was the embodiment of that ideal. I'm proud to have known Mickey. I'm proud to have been inspired by him and proud to continue his good work. This I believe.”