TAL1/SCL/TCL5 is a critical transcription factor for hematopoietic stem cell maintenance and regulation of early hematopoiesis. However, aberrant expression of TAL1 in committed T-cell precursors is also directly implicated in the development of T-cell leukemia. Roughly 25 years ago TAL1 was identified in early hematopoietic cells and involved in leukemia. Here, we review the wealth of knowledge gained since then on its physiological roles and mechanisms by which TAL1 ectopic expression contributes to leukemogenesis. We emphasize recent findings that shed light into the intricacies of TAL1 (epi)genetic regulation and the transcription network orchestrated by this major T-cell oncogene. Importantly, an exciting time is coming when data using the mechanistic knowledge accumulated on TAL1 may be used to develop novel anti-leukemia targeted therapies.