James H. McGee became Dayton, Ohio’s first Black mayor on July 15, 1970, and to date remains its longest tenured.
James Howell McGee was born November 8, 1918 in Berryburg, W. Va., and raised in Steubenville, Ohio. After graduating from Wilberforce University, McGee served a short time in the U.S. Army then entered law school at Ohio State University, finishing a three-year course in two years.
McGee worked early on with the Dayton NAACP, filing several landmark cases on the organization’s behalf. In 1967, McGee was tapped to replace Dayton’s first Black city commissioner, Don Crawford. Three years later after Mayor Dave Hall retired with an illness, McGee was appointed to the role, as he was the most experienced of the commissioners.
The role was largely ceremonial but McGee did address the concerns of Black and white Dayton residents equally with his politically moderate approach. The Alpha man and Prince Hall Freemason member did generate some criticism from Black groups because he was not more progressive but was able to successfully challenge those views.
McGee passed in 2006.
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