Tony Hall named Dayton Peace Prize winner

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Former congressman, ambassador honored for fight against hunger

Former congressman Tony Hall has been named the recipient of the Dayton Peace Prize.

The Dayton Peace Accords 25th Anniversary Committee is scheduled to announce the news today.

Past recipients have included former President Bill Clinton, the late Ambassador Richard Holbrooke and Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

“I’m very humbled and grateful to be in this amazing company,” Hall said. “This honor is especially meaningful to me because it recognizes the contributions of my hometown, Dayton, Ohio.”

“We’re not a big city, but we’ve made a big mark on the world,” he added.

Today is the 25th anniversary to-the-day of the initialing of the Dayton Peace Accord at the Hope Hotel ballroom at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, the committee noted in an announcement.

The 1995 negotiations were conducted by the U.S. Department of State and hosted by Wright Patterson from Oct. 31 until the initialing on Nov. 21, ending hostilities that had ravaged the Bosnian region with the loss of an estimated 100,000 lives.

Hall has been a familiar name in the Dayton area for decades. The former Dayton congressman and U.S. ambassador has talked the talk, and more importantly, walked the walk. He walked to a refugee camp in Ethiopia in 1984 and watched dozens of children die before noon. That experience, he recalled to the Dayton Daily News in 2016, changed him forever.

Hall, 78, served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1979 to 2002. After he left Congress, he was the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture until 2006.

When Hall was executive director emeritus of the Washington, D.C.-based Alliance to End Hunger, Hall saw a Dayton Daily News story that reported research that found Dayton to be the “fourth hungriest” city in America, in terms of food hardship. Hall asked a friend to look into the finding — and what he learned alarmed him.

He then came to Dayton to announce plans to open an office to unite efforts to make food more available. The effort became the Hall Hunger Initiative.

Tony Hall, retired U.S. Congressman and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture, in 2017. LYNN HULSEY/Staff
Tony Hall, retired U.S. Congressman and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture, in 2017. LYNN HULSEY/Staff

“I think my heart was touched probably when I was in the Peace Corps many years ago,” he told the newspaper in August 2016. “I was in the country of Thailand, in the late 60s, and I lived among the poor. I had never experienced poverty, never had seen it until that time. And I think living in it, and living in a different culture, speaking a different language — pretty much living like they did — kind of woke me up. It kind of matured me right away.”

The son of Dave Hall, once a Republican mayor of Dayton, Hall was first elected to the House in 1978 to succeed 12-year incumbent Charles Whalen Jr.

Hall is one of only six people to be awarded the prize since the community-led anniversary committee was founded in 1996.

John McCance, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and a member of the peace committee, said Hall was a natural and obvious choice. “I thought of Tony almost simultaneously with another member of the committee,” said McCance, owner of McCance Consulting Group.

“It was a unanimous yes, immediately” from other committee members, he recalled.

“It was an epiphany, but why did it have to wait 24 years, almost 25 years, for it to become an epiphany?” he also said.

The event will not be marked with an in-person gathering today due to the pandemic, but the hope is that it will be celebrated in the future, perhaps when two Bosnian groups are scheduled to visit Dayton next year.

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