Louis Stokes, the first black Congressman to be elected from the state of Ohio, who served three decades in that office, has died. Stokes chaired investigations into the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr, and John F. Kennedy. He was the first black person to chair the Intelligence Committee, and to serve on the House Appropriations Committee, reports the Plain Dealer.
His friend and political colleague, George Forbes offered,
“It was not unusual for some of the things we did or said to be questioned. But not Lou Stokes. If he said it, or did it, it was like a pronouncement from Sinai. It was the gospel. It was the last word. No one disagreed with him.” …
The PD reports on an interview Stokes gave shortly before his death, in which he noted the way that politics have changed in the decades since he retired from Congress.
“I have members of Congress whom I see, on both sides of the aisle, and they tell me, ‘Louie, you wouldn’t want to be here now.’ It’s a waste of your time and intellect to be involved there now and see how difficult it is to concentrate on doing what’s best for people — considering you were sent there to help people. That’s gone now.”
About a month before his diagnosis with an aggressive brain and lung cancer, Stokes spoke at the unveiling of a marker commemorating the role of St John’s Episcopal Church, Ohio City, in the Underground Railroad. It was known as Station Hope.
In an interview at his home just a month before his death and days after he learned of his terminal illness, Stokes emotionally reminisced on his storybook life.
“I was a very blessed guy,” he began. “I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to participate in history, to rise to opportunities I never envisioned … and to provide for people opportunities that, in many cases, they would have never had.
“We have been blessed as a family with a legacy we can always be proud of. Together with Carl, we made a name that stood for something.
“What greater honor could have come to two brothers who grew up in poverty here in Cleveland?”
Photo: Louis Stokes speaks at Station Hope, May 2015. Diocese of Ohio via Facebook/@alithearchitect