It’s a long way from Shreveport, Louisiana to Albuquerque, New Mexico. In that 800-mile journey, Dr. Lenton Malry had a number of firsts along the way.

“My mom instilled in me when I was on the farm in Louisiana, she used to read to me by a lamplight and say listen, you have to get a good education,” said Dr. Malry.

That’s exactly what happened when Malry joined the United States Air Force.

An education officer pushed the young man from Louisiana to further his education all the way to receive his doctorate.

That foundation set the path for another round of firsts for Malry, this time not only becoming the first black male teacher in New Mexico, but the first black principal at John Marshall Elementary in Albuquerque in 1964.

“I think I did alright because two years later he promoted me to La Mesa Elementary School up in the Northeast Heights,” added Malry.

All of this wouldn’t compare to Malry’s time as a representative in the State Legislature, still keeping education at the forefront of everything.

Even using his 6-foot-plus stature to make sure that other lawmakers knew he meant business when it came to establishing kindergarten classes in the state.

“I headed over to the Senate and I sat right on his desk, and I said, ‘Don’t get up,’ and finally he said, ‘I’m going to tell you what I think of your bill,'” said Malry. “I’m going to my office, and I said, ‘Oh thank God!’ It passed by three votes.”

After ten years in the legislature, Malry’s political life wasn’t over. He spent another eight years during the 1980s as the first black Commissioner for Bernalillo County. In that time, Malry was still championing education and basic rights for everyone.

Looking back on his life and career, Dr. Malry never forgot where he came from and what got him there.

“I just thank God that I’ve been able to help people along the way,” added Malry. “That’s all I want to do is to thank God for what he has helped me do. Without Him, I would not have been able to do anything.”

Dr. Malry also published a book documenting his life experiences called “Let’s Roll This Train.” It’s all based on a phrase that he commonly used in his days as a County Commissioner to make sure things would get done.