Fifty years ago this week, Dayton was declared the cleanest city in the nation. “It gives me great pleasure to present the national award for excellence to Dayton,” said “Lady Bird” Johnson, the First Lady of the United States, as she handed a trophy to City Commissioner James H. McGee during a ceremony in the nation’s capital Feb. 20, 1968.

Dayton was once the cleanest town in America

In 1968, Dayton was declared the cleanest city in the nation. 

“It gives me great pleasure to present the national award for excellence to Dayton,” said “Lady Bird” Johnson, the First Lady of the United States, as she handed a trophy to City Commissioner James H. McGee during a ceremony in the nation’s capital 51 years ago on Feb. 20.

Dayton beat out 214 cities and towns from 41 states to take home the title. 

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“That was tough competition,” said McGee. “We didn’t expect this but we knew we did a real fine job.” 

“This is unbelievable. It’s a real tribute to a lot of hard work,” said Commissioner Joe Wine, who was part of the delegation to the National Cleanest Town conference. “Among other things we collected 5 million pounds of trash last year.” 

Not only did the Gem City pick up tons of trash to win the award, but it organized a multitude of projects to make the city sparkle. 

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Volunteers planted 150 cherry trees at Eastwood Park, a service station beautification competition was held and a rat eradication campaign was formed. 

The First Lady praised the city for “an extensive year-round cleanup program truly citywide in scope involving about 90 area councils, neighborhood associations and block clubs,” according to a story in the Dayton Journal-Herald. 

The trophy was delivered to Mayor Dave Hall and the commissioners at the City Commission meeting two days later. City Manager Graham W. Watt declared, “This national recognition adds once again to Dayton’s increasing prominence as a leader among cities.”

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