Louis Stokes, Ohio’s First African-American Congressman, Dead At 90

Louis Stokes
Photo Courtesy: UPI

CLEVELAND, Aug. 19 (UPI) — Louis Stokes, who became Ohio’s first black member of congress in 1968, died Tuesday night. He was 90 years old.

The retired U.S. congressman served 15 consecutive terms, about 30 years, in the U.S. House of Representatives before retiring from the position in 1999. In July, Stokes was reportedly diagnosed with lung and brain cancer.

“Our family is mourning the loss of our husband, father, grandfather and close confidant,” a statement released by Stokes’ family Wednesday morning read. “He died peacefully with Jay, his wife of 55 years, at his side. During his illness, he confronted it as he did life — with bravery and strength. He was always guided by faith, while embracing the prayers and well wishes of family, friends and constituents.”

“He loved Cleveland and was honored to have the opportunity to represent its citizens in the United States Congress,” the statement continued. “He was equally committed to our family, and his love knew no bounds. It is this enduring love that will sustain us in the days and years to come.”

Stokes, a Democrat, was first elected to Congress in 1968 after working as a civil rights lawyer and served 15 congressional terms starting from the 91st to the 105th.

The former congressman earned 27 honorary doctorate degrees during his career and became the first African American to receive the Congressional Distinguished Service Award in 2003. The American Bar Association Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession honored Stokes in 2010 with a Spirit of Excellence Award for his work to help minorities enter the legal profession.

According to his official biography, Stokes is remembered for saying: “I’m going to keep on denouncing the inequities of this system, but I’m going to work within it. To go outside the system would be to deny myself — to deny my own existence. I’ve beaten the system. I’ve proved it can be done — so have a lot of others.”

“But the problem is that a black man has to be extra special to win in this system. Why should you have to be a super black to get someplace? That’s what’s wrong in the society. The ordinary black man doesn’t have the same chance as the ordinary white man does.”


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