By Bonnie Meibers Dayton Daily News
A prominent Dayton politician and redevelopment champion died Sunday, Jan. 24 at Kettering Medical Center.
Idotha “Bootsie” Neal was 68 and died of natural causes, a Montgomery County Coroner’s Office official told this newspaper.
With her election in 1991, Neal became the first Black woman to serve on Dayton City Commission.
She remained a commissioner until 2004.
In the early days of her political career, Neal was often the only Black person or woman in a male-dominated arena. Later in her life, Neal mentored other women running for office or looking to run for office.
“She was a giant in this community,” said Dayton Municipal Court Judge Mia Spells, Neal’s friend for 40 years. “She has made a footprint in this community that is indelible. The family, her friends, ask for your continued prayers at this time.”
Rep. Mike Turner (R-Dayton) was mayor of Dayton when Neal served on city commission. In a statement he said that they worked together to “turn the city around.”
Neal and Turner, the commission’s only Republican at the time, formed a bit of an alliance.
“Bootsie Neal was one of my dearest friends” Turner said. “I know that without her leadership and partnership we would not have balanced the city’s budget and built the baseball stadium, Schuster Center, and RiverScape. Bootsie’s legacy of service through her sorority Delta Sigma Theta as well as to the entire Dayton community will forever be cherished.”
Turner brought Neal with him as his guest to the 2012 White House Christmas party.
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown said Neal did great things for Dayton and the Miami Valley.
“Ms. Neal was a force for good in our state, who will long be remembered for her commitment to the Dayton community and for her work to make the Miami Valley a better place. Ms. Neal was a trailblazer, breaking down barriers in her own life as the first Black woman to serve on the Dayton City Commission, and in her later years, lifting up future generations of Ohio women interested in pursuing public service,” Brown, a Democrat, said in a statement. “Connie and I are keeping Ms. Neal’s loved ones in our thoughts during this difficult time and stand with the Dayton community in honoring her legacy of service.”
As commissioner, Neal was instrumental in the neighborhood redevelopment efforts in the Wright Dunbar Business Village on West Third Street. Neal also led Wright Dunbar, Inc. until 2014.