Louis Stokes, Ohio's first black member of Congress dies

Louis Stokes, Ohio's first black member of Congress dies

Retired U.S. Congressman Louis Stokes has died. The 90-year-old was diagnosed last month with lung and brain cancer. He passed away late Tuesday night.

A public viewing will be held on Aug. 24 inside the Cleveland City Hall Rotunda, located at 601 Lakeside Avenue, between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. Funeral services will be held on Aug. 25 at Olivet Institutional Baptist Church, located at 8712 Quincy Avenue in Cleveland. Family Hour will take place from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., followed by the funeral program, which is scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. The burial service will be private.

The lawyer and Cleveland community leader served what were Ohio's 21st and 11th districts for 30 years.

His family released the following statement:

"Our family is mourning the loss of our husband, father, grandfather and close confidant. 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. We are grateful for the cards, prayers and words of comfort during this difficult time. He loved Cleveland and was honored to have the opportunity to represent its citizens in the United States Congress. 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 was the retired Senior Counsel of what is now Squire, Patton and Boggs.

He also had a transformative 15-term tour in Congress. His list of accomplishments, big and small, is beyond impressive. While he made a name on a national stage he was always quick to do whatever he could to help the young people of Cleveland.

Stokes grew up in the Outhwaite Public Housing Development.

It was his mother, he always said, who impressed upon him the importance of getting an education. So it should be no surprise that the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association developed the Louis Stokes Scholars Program.

The program provides paid summer legal internships for college students who are from Cleveland or East Cleveland.

Joshua White, a grad of MC2 Stem High School, who will study abroad this fall at the University of Grenada, has taken advantage of the program. White worked one internship last summer and is wrapping up a second this summer.

"It's what you do with it, it's how you look to influence and change the world and for me Louis Stokes embodies just that," White said.

Brandon Brown is a John Hay and Oberlin College graduate and now a second-year law student at Cleveland State's Marshall School of Law.

Brown has also worked at two paid internships.

"I really gained valuable experience at the firm and in courtrooms that not only stands out on a resume but also makes me a more well-rounded person," Brown said.

In the spirit of the Louis Stokes Scholars Program, Brown realizes his responsibility to give back as his career grows.

"You can't just live life for you. You have to live life to raise the standard of life and the standard of care of others as well," Brown said.

Condolences for the political icon are pouring in:

Louis B. Stokes epitomized selfless public service in our community for more than 50 years. His life-long quest to build a more inclusive and just society will remain an inspiration to us all. So will his intellect and his humor, his passion and his kindness. Cleveland is better because of Lou Stokes, as are the individuals he touched on a personal level. I know I will miss his wise counsel and his unwavering commitment to principle. Every time he visited our office or joined us at a special event, be it to discuss Terry v. Ohio or to celebrate the life of Stephanie Tubbs Jones, he reminded us not only that the work of seeking justice never ends, but that it can be a labor of joy and hope. My condolences go out to his widow Jeanette and to entire Stokes family.
Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty

"One of the first things I did when I became US Attorney was arrange for Lou Stokes to address every federal prosecutor in the District. We were in the midst of a huge county corruption scandal, and public service was taking a public beating. But Lou Stokes was a there as a shining beacon of integrity, of excellence and most important of all for us, of justice. I will always remember not only his words and wisdom that day, and whenever we spoke, but the incredible example that his entire life set."
Steven M. Dettelbach, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Ohio

"Rarely in our state's history has someone like Louis Stokes come along. He was a powerful and well-respected political leader whose place in Northeastern Ohio history will live on for generations. From his humble beginning to making history as a leading lawyer and the first African-American Congressman from the state of Ohio, Stokes was a constant model of how to lead with passion, honor, and distinction. My prayers are with Jay, his wife of 55 years, and his family as we commemorate his life and mourn his passing."
U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Wadsworth)

"Ohio has lost one of its most dedicated public servants with the death of former Congressman Louis Stokes. I had the pleasure of working with Lou when I served in Congress. Lou Stokes never forgot where he came from and the people he represented in Washington. Lou was one of Ohio's leading lawyers and a fierce advocate for Cleveland. Lou was also a true gentleman and a friend to many. Fran and I send our deepest sympathy to his wife Jeanette, his children and grandchildren."
Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine

"Frances and I join all of Ohio in mourning the loss of one of our best. I was honored to have the opportunity to work with Lou and learn from him while we served together in the House. He was a tough fighter for justice, a true patriot and a good and caring friend. Lou will be dearly missed, but his legacy and impact on Ohio and this country lives on. Frances and I send our condolences to Lou's family and everyone who was touched by his life."
Former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland 

"Through his accomplishments in government service, Congressman Stokes lifted up countless people throughout Cleveland, Cuyahoga County, and the entire nation. His impact on all of our lives has been invaluable and he will be sorely missed as part of this community."
Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish

"Lou Stokes always did the right thing and spent his life fighting for Ohioans. I've been proud to call him a friend and a mentor, whose counsel I relied on for 30 years. Lou Stokes continued to stand up for northeast Ohioans ‎long after he left Congress.‎ He'll be remembered in the communities he strengthened, the veterans he served, and the many lives he touched. Connie and I send our thoughts and prayers to his family."
U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown 

"I'm saddened by the loss of my friend Lou Stokes. He was a giant, who led by his conviction as much as he did by his personal grace. I am proud to have served in Congress with him. Cleveland, Ohio and America are stronger for his service and I hope reflecting on that can inspire future leaders at a time when we need to come together more as a country. My family's thoughts and prayers go out to his at this difficult time."
Ohio Governor John R. Kasich

"Congressman Stokes was my predecessor, mentor and friend. He was a giant of a man - the person who everyone measured themselves against. It was easy to think of him as almost immortal. For more than 30 years, Congressman Stokes tirelessly fought for the people of Ohio. He was our leader in good times and bad. The first African American elected to Congress from Ohio, Congressman Stokes was the epitome of a public servant. While in Washington, he was a trailblazer.  He was the first African American to serve on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, and was a founder of the Congressional Black Caucus and its Health Braintrust. He constantly fought to combat pervasive health disparities plaguing the African-American community and served as a voice for people who could not speak for themselves. His work affected thousands. When he spoke, people listened.  Congressman Stokes exuded leadership, vision and purpose.  He was an example for us all.  It was a privilege to work with him and walk in his Congressional footsteps. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Jay, children, Shelley, Angela, Louis, and Lori, and his entire family during this difficult time. As the Book of Matthew says, 'Well done, good and faithful servant. Well done. The greater Cleveland community, state of Ohio, and nation are indebted to Congressman Stokes. We are grateful for his time with us and his dedication to public service."
Congresswoman Marcia L. Fudge (OH-11)

"The city of Cleveland and our nation lost an icon this week. Lou Stokes dedicated his life to lifting up others and expanding opportunities for those most in need. He was effective because he knew how to bring people together to solve problems and, as a result, he had a meaningful impact on countless lives in his beloved hometown of Cleveland and around the country. I had the pleasure of serving with Lou in the U.S. House, where we cosponsored a number of bills together, and collaborated on the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in my hometown of Cincinnati. I was then fortunate to be his colleague at Squire, Sanders law firm. I had the opportunity to visit with Lou in Cleveland just last week, where I was able to express my gratitude for his friendship and for his remarkable public service career. Jane and I send our deepest condolences to Lou's wife Jay and their entire family."
U.S. Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio)

"I am very sorry to learn that the first African American member of Congress ever elected from Ohio, Rep. Louis Stokes, has died.  He was a gifted public servant who brought dignity to the office, not only on behalf of the people of Cleveland and Ohio, but he contributed to the public good of the entire nation. "The fact that he was chosen to chair the investigations of some of this nation's most tragic events--the assassinations of President John Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as the Iran-Contra affair--demonstrates the respect his colleagues in Congress had for his work and his integrity.  He was a vocal advocate for the most vulnerable among us, and he was passionate about the issues of health care."
Rep. John Lewis (GA)

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