Congressman Louis Stokes: Champion of the Poor Dies

Ohio's first African-American congressman Louis Stokes dies at 90. (Photo: Google Images)

Ohio’s first African-American congressman Louis Stokes dies at 90.
(Photo: Google Images)

The world is mourning the loss of Congressman Louis Stokes, the first African-American congressman from Ohio, who passed away on Tuesday of this week. Stokes’ daughter Lori, an ABC News anchor in New York City, reported that the beloved figure died of lung and brain cancer at his home in a Cleveland suburb. Dennis Hevesi of the New York Times writes:

“Mr. Stokes, a Democrat, served in the House for 30 years starting in 1969, representing Ohio’s 21st Congressional District. Encompassing the east side of Cleveland and several suburbs and comprising a predominantly African-American population, the district was created in 1967 in response to a Supreme Court ruling in a case in which Mr. Stokes, then a civil rights lawyer, played a major role.

One of Mr. Stokes’s colleagues in that redistricting fight was his younger brother, Carl, who was the mayor of Cleveland from 1967 to 1971 and later became a television news anchor on WNBC in New York. He died in 1996.

Louis Stokes garnered national attention as the head of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, which after two years of investigations in the late 1970s concluded that the Kennedy and King killings may have involved conspiracies. But he thought that his most significant role was as a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, which helps determine how federal dollars are spent.

‘It’s the only committee to be on,’ he once said. ‘All the rest is window dressing.’

As a committee member, Mr. Stokes steered funds toward housing and urban development projects, job placement programs and health clinics. As the chairman of the subcommittee dealing with the Department of Housing and Urban Development and several other agencies, he oversaw allocations of more than $90 billion a year.

Inadequate health care for minorities was a major concern of his, and he was an early advocate of federal intervention in the AIDS crisis, which was ravaging black communities in the 1990s. Interviewed for this obituary in 2011, Mr. Stokes said he was particularly proud of sponsoring legislation that established the Office of Minority Health as a permanent federal agency. ‘That started the real work of that office,’ he said.”

Stokes is survived by his wife Jay, three daughters, one son and seven grandchildren. He was 90-years-old.

Read more at the New York Times.

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