Dayton Daily News Library

James H. McGee
-- Dayton's first black mayor


DDN photo by Wally Nelson
  James H. McGee was Dayton's first black mayor and also held the post longer than any other Dayton mayor.
  A well-known civil rights attorney in the 1960s, McGee was appointed to the Dayton City Commission in 1967 and became mayor in 1970 after the resignation of Dave Hall.
  He served as mayor until 1982.

   James Howell McGee was born in Berryburg, W. Va., and grew up in Steubenville, the oldest of seven children.
  He graduated from Wilberforce University in 1937 and Ohio State University law school in 1948.
  After coming back to Dayton in 1949 he began practicing law, often bringing discrimination cases against bars, restaurants, hotels and theaters. In 1967 he became a Dayton City Commissioner after the resignation of Don Crawford, the first black Dayton commissioner.
   In 1970 McGee was appointed mayor after Dave Hall resigned.
  McGee's clear, uncomplicated view of issues could make him stubborn and confrontational as mayor. He was not known for his diplomacy or willingness to compromise. But at the same time he was known for his honesty, his directness and his passionate love for the city of Dayton. He sometimes would interrupt speakers addressing the commission and particularly disliked speakers living outside Dayton who criticized the city or its workers.
  McGee's most controversial stand was his opposition of Interstate 675, the beltway connecting interstates 70 and 75 through the south and southeast suburbs.
  After serving a record 11 years as mayor he chose not to run for re-election and left office in 1982.
   McGee's wife, Elizabeth, died in 1988. They had two daughters, Frances McGee-Cromartie and Annette McGee Cunningham.
  In 1996 McGee donated manuscripts and photographs from his time in office to the National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center in Wilberforce.

Selected Dayton Daily News stories:

Ex-mayor still casts impressive shadow
James McGee broke ground in many ways
By James Cummings DAYTON DAILY NEWS
Published: 02/28/93

BLACK HISTORY
MCGEE SHARING HIS LEGACY
* The Afro-American Museum acquires documents from Dayton's first black mayor.

By Derek Ali DAYTON DAILY NEWS
Published: 11/21/96 -- Page: 2B

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File Created: 12-4-1996
Compiled by: Dayton Daily News Library staff
Sources: DDN reports