In September 1960, McLemore began studies at Rust College. It was there that he first became seriously involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Within a month, McLemore participated in a boycott of a theatre in Holly Springs, MS because they would not allow blacks to sit in the downstairs section.
While at Rust College, McLemore would continue to be involved in student protests. He also became involved with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in various activities including voter registration drives. McLemore served as northern regional coordinator for the Freedom Vote campaign in 1963.
McLemore graduated from Rust College in 1964 with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Science and Economics. He is a founding President of Rust College’s chapter of the NAACP. He pursued graduate studies at Atlanta University, where he obtained a Master’s degree in Political Science. Later, McLemore received a Doctorate in Government from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.
Until his retirement, McLemore served on the Jackson City Council, representing the second ward and serving as Council President. Upon the death of Mayor Frank Melton, McLemore also served as acting Mayor until the inauguration of re-elected mayor Harvey Johnson, Jr. McLemore did not seek re-election to his council seat. His term ended in July 2009.
In addition to his duties on the City Council, McLemore has served as Vice-Chairman of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, a professor of Political Science at Jackson State University and Director of the Fannie Lou Hamer National Institute on Citizenship and Democracy. He is a member of the Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement.
McLemore is married to his wife, Attorney Betty Mallett. They have one son, Leslie II, who is currently practicing law in the Washington, D.C. area.