Centennial Roadshow Stop #1: Lawrence, Kansas, the Birthplace of NLC 


  • Clarence E. Anthony
March 5, 2024 - (3 min read)

Nearly 100 years ago, ten leaders from state municipal leagues spanning the nation came together in Fraser Hall at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, to form the organization we now know as the National League of Cities. To recognize the centennial milestone of that initial meeting, a delegation comprised of current and former NLC leadership traveled to Lawrence last week to learn more about the history behind our origins and the city where it all began.  

Last week’s events in Kansas, including visits to the University of Kansas and seven surrounding city halls, officially kicked off the NLC Centennial Roadshow, a year-long journey celebrating the achievements of municipalities across America. At each stop along the way, we were struck by the incredible presence of community and the sense of history that still exists in each of these places.  

But even more than that, we were honored to meet some truly amazing public servants from several cities across the state, who are passionate about going beyond simply meeting the needs of their communities – and are really striving to make them better places to work and live. 

The first official NLC Centennial Roadshow stop in Lawrence began with a tour of the University of Kansas (KU), including a tour of the fieldhouse, the main campus, and a special stop at the Spencer Library, where the delegation had the opportunity to view original documents from the founding of NLC that took place on that very campus nearly a century ago.  

A presentation on the historical context that led to NLC’s founding was followed by a visit to the City of Lawrence council chambers, where we were honored with a proclamation formally recognizing our visit. Following a visit to the Watkins Historical Museum to learn more about Lawrence’s history, the KU School of Public Affairs and Administration hosted a reception and panel featuring former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary and NLC Past President Henry Cisneros; Johnson County, Kansas Manager Penny Postoak Ferguson; and League of Kansas Municipalities Executive Director Nathan Eberline. At that event, our leadership had the opportunity to connect with students working to become the next generation of public servants.  

In addition to our visit to Lawrence, the roadshow stopped in Topeka, where we had a chance to meet at the official headquarters of the League of Kansas Municipalities, tour the state capitol, and visit the Brown v. Board of Education historic site. We also met with the incredible municipal leaders and staff in the cities of Lenexa, KS; Overland Park, KS; Mission, KS; Kansas City, KS; and Kansas City, MO. Hear more about those visits in my recent interview with Kansas Public Radio

We left Kansas with a strong sense of gratitude and admiration for the warm welcome and a much deeper understanding of NLC’s founding history, which you can learn more about on our centennial website. Our sincere appreciation goes out to the many municipal leaders and staff, university leaders, and students in Kansas who made our first roadshow stop such a success and demonstrated what public service is all about. Watch our recap video for more about the journey:

A huge thank you as well to our Centennial Sponsors Wells Fargo, Enterprise Mobility, and Google for their support. Here’s to the first of many remarkable roadshow stops throughout the rest of 2024! 

About the Author

Clarence E. Anthony

About the Author

Clarence E. Anthony is the CEO & Executive Director of the National League of Cities. Follow him on Twitter: @ceanthony50.