From his roots in the hardscrabble poverty of then-segregated Louisiana, Ike Leggett has built a record of public service marked by conviction to principle, leadership, and a willingness to take on tough fights and make hard choices.
In 2006, Leggett won the Democratic Party primary for County Executive by 61 percent of the vote. Then, in November of that same year, he was elected the first African American County Executive, winning more than 67 percent of the ballots cast in a three-way race. In 2010, Leggett was unopposed for the Democratic Party nomination and was reelected County Executive with over 65 percent of the vote. In 2014, Leggett easily won the Democratic nomination for a third term, winning 80 percent of county precincts. In the fall general election Leggett won with 65 percent of the vote, winning 212 of 245 voting precincts.
He served as President of the County Executives of America in 2013-2014 and as President of the Maryland Association of Counties in 2015.
As County Executive, Leggett has focused on making sure that every part of an ever-more-diverse Montgomery County has a seat at the table and a voice in the decisions that affect their lives. He has made the hard choices to put the County's fiscal house in order and invested in growing the jobs of the future.
Born in Deweyville, Texas on July 25, 1945, Leggett was raised in small-town Alexandria, Louisiana, where he grew up as the seventh of 12 children in a four room house without in-door plumbing. His father worked at the local saw mill. His mother, he remembers, always focused on education as the way to get ahead and build a better life.
Segregation - and separate, but unequal - was the reality in Alexandria, Louisiana as Leggett grew up the 1950s and early 60s. "The only Black professional people I saw were ministers and teachers," he recalls. "We knew there were Black lawyers and doctors and other such people - but only by watching national television shows. There weren't any in our community. Even the mailman was white."
After excelling in sports at Peabody Magnet High School, including quarterbacking the football team, Leggett took his mother's advice and sought to go to college, working his way through by working as a member of the campus grounds crew.
While studying at Southern University, Leggett was elected student body president, commanded the university's Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) cadets, and was a campus and community leader in the struggle for civil rights. Perhaps uniquely among student leaders, he conducted military drills while also organizing campus protests. In that connection, a young Leggett twice met the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
He holds four higher education degrees: Bachelor of Arts from Southern University, a Master of Arts degree and a Juris Doctorate degree from Howard University, and a Master of Laws from George Washington University. Ike Leggett graduated from Southern University in 1967 as a Distinguished Military Graduate. In 1981 he was selected as the Southern University Outstanding Alumni. He finished first in his class from Howard University Law School, graduating Magna Cum Laude. At the time of his Howard Law School graduation, he held the third highest academic average in the law school's history. In 1985 Leggett received the Outstanding Alumni Award from Howard University Law School.
In November 2006, Isiah Leggett was elected to a four-year term as Montgomery County Executive. He is the first African American to be elected to this public office. He was overwhelmingly reelected in 2010 and 2014.
Isiah Leggett was the first African American to be elected to the County Council. Ike Leggett served four terms as an At-Large Member (1986 - 2002). He also served as the Council's President three times (1991, 1998, 1999) and as its Vice-President three times (1990, 1997 and 2002). As a Council Member he also chaired the Council's Transportation and Environment Committee and served on the Education Committee.
His other political service includes chairing the Maryland Democratic Party from December 2002 - December 2004, which involved working with local officials throughout the State of Maryland.
In earlier leadership experience he served as a Captain in the United States Army. His tour of duty in the Vietnam War earned him the Bronze Star Medal, the Vietnam Service, and Vietnam Campaign Medals. As an administrative aide he specialized in small business concerns for Congressman Parren Mitchell of Maryland's 7th Congressional District. He also worked as a Social Security Administration claims examiner and as a staff attorney for the Department of the Navy.
In 1977 Ike Leggett was selected as a White House Fellow under President Jimmy Carter, one of a small number of citizens selected from across the country for their exemplary civic, professional and educational achievement. This program assigns the Fellows as staff members to the President of the United States and Members of the Cabinet.
He served as a Professor of Law at the Howard University Law School from 1975 - 2006. He ran the day-to-day operations of the Law School as its Assistant Dean from 1979 - 1986.
Leggett's community service is extensive and diverse. In 1979 and in 1981 the County Executive appointed him to serve as a member of the Montgomery County Human Relations Commission (now called Human Rights Commission) and then Chairman of the Commission from 1983 - 1986. From 1982 - 1986, he also chaired the Commission's Hearing Panel on Employment Discrimination.
Leggett has been an active board of directors member of a number of professional, civic and community organizations including: the Jewish Foundation for Group Homes, the Maryland College of Art and Design, Leadership Montgomery, the Montgomery Multiple Sclerosis Center, the Montgomery County Chapter of the NAACP, Impact Silver Spring, the Board of Directors of the Montgomery County Tennis Association, the Washington Area Housing Partnership, Montgomery County Boys and Girls Club, Metro PFLAG, and the African American Business Council. He is or has been a member of the Urban League, the Vietnam Veterans Leadership Forum, the National Bar Association, the American Bar Association, Phi Alpha Delta Legal Fraternity, Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Burtonsville Kiwanis, and the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity.
In January 2016, Leggett was named a "Washingtonian of the Year" by Washingtonian Magazine.
He has received more than 200 honors and awards from a variety of other organizations, including the Leadership Award from the Maryland State Teachers Association, Humanitarian of the Year Award from the Montgomery County Humane Society, the Distinguished Public Service Award from the American Lung Association, the Good Scout Award from the National Capital Area - Boy Scouts of America, the Advancement of Public Service Responsibility Award from the Maryland Bar Foundation, the award for Achievement in Environmental & Occupational Health from Metropolitan Washington Public Health Association, Alzheimer's Association, Excellence in Leadership, George Washington University Law School, J. William Fulbright Public Service Award, National Breakfast of Champions Award, After School Alliance Program, Maryland Washington Minority Contractors Assn., The Best Inclusive Leader of the Year for Minority Business Enterprise, National Jewish Democratic Organization, Tikkum Olam Award for Outstanding Leadership and Service, Howard University, Distinguished Alumni Award, Distinguished Leadership Awards, Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, and the JCRC's The Martin Luther King - Heschel Award.
Ike Leggett lives in Burtonsville with his wife, Catherine, who is Vice President for Human Resources of the International City Management Association; ICMA is a non-profit company that assists retired public service employees with financial matters. His daughter, Yaminah, a bio-medical researcher, and her family live in Silver Spring. Leggett is a member of the Resurrection Baptist Church of Olney, Maryland.