NLC’s History

The National League of Cities was founded in December 1924 by 10 state municipal leagues that saw the need for a national organization to strengthen local government.  Established initially as the American Municipal Association, it was an organization comprised only of state municipal leagues, whose purpose was to collect and exchange information about urban affairs that would help state organizations promote approved methods of municipal government.

In 1947, the organization that began as an association of state municipal leagues opened its membership to individual cities with populations of 100,000 or more.  That membership threshold was gradually moved downward, and in 1964, to signal the organization’s growing emphasis on cities as members, the American Municipal Association changed its name to the National League of Cities.

By 1977, city size was no longer an issue for NLC membership.  Any city that was a member of its state municipal league could join the National League of Cities and participate directly as a voting member.

As the organization’s membership expanded, NLC activities have evolved and broadened to include a National Municipal Policy that guides the organization’s advocacy work in Washington, D.C. on behalf of hometown America.  NLC training, education programs, and conferences help municipal officials cope with issues affecting local government and communities. A constant flow of information and publications keeps members apprised of federal regulations, solutions to problems, and challenges for the future.

Today, more than 1,600 cities, towns, and villages of all sizes are NLC members and another 18,000 communities participate through their state municipal leagues.   Local elected leaders from even the smallest cities now have an opportunity to shape the priorities, policies, and advocacy positions of the organization.  With the door to leadership and participation open to all local elected officials, NLC is now as diverse as the communities it serves.