Reflections by Ben Holbert
Woodmere Village Council President
The community of Woodmere Village and its residents are saddened to learn of the passing of former U.S. Rep. Louis Stokes at age 90. Stokes enjoyed a distinguished career as a 15-term congressional representative. He was known as the Dean of the Congressional Black Caucus and a tireless political advocate of Woodmere and the other municipalities that comprise the 11st District.
I personally recall covering Mr. Stokes when I served as a television and radio news reporter in Cleveland. I found him to be engaging, politically brilliant, and always available to discuss the needs of his constituents.
I was fortunate to see him for the last time on May 15, 2015 at the Marriott Hotel in Warrensville Heights. This unexpected encounter occurred prior to his public announcement that he had brain and lung cancer. Congressman Stokes was always pleasant, complimentary, and soft spoken during our many conversations.
Louis Stokes attended Central High School in Cleveland and was a product of the inner-city. He served in the U.S. Army from 1943 to 1946. He earned a college degree from Western Reserve University and law degree Cleveland-Marshall College of Law.
Mr. Stokes began practicing law in Cleveland in 1953 and was elected to the U. S. House in 1968.
His political body of work is exhaustive including many “first” time accomplishments for an African American. Mr. Stokes was Ohio’s first black member of Congress; he was the first black person to serve on the powerful House Appropriations Committee. He also served on the Iran-Contra investigative committee and was appointed as chairman of the House ethics committee.
A lawyer by profession, Congressman Stokes spearheaded the House Select Committee on assassinations and provided leadership into the shooting death of President John F. Kennedy and Civil Rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
The contributions made by Louis Stokes was extensive and suffice to say his vision and mission had long-ranging influence and impact on today’s population as well as generations to come. He retired from Congress January 3, 1999. On behalf of the Council of Woodmere Village, administration, staff, and residents, we mourn the passing of a leader, a Statesman, and a champion for all people.