‘A genuine good person’: Reverends, local leaders remember former Congressman Louis Stokes

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CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Officials in Cleveland and all over Ohio are remembering former Congressman Louis Stokes today.

Stokes passed away late last night at the age of 90 after a courageous battle with cancer.

Congressman Stokes, who was born in Cleveland and elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1968, was the first African-American member of congress elected from Ohio.

Steven Dettelbach, U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Ohio, said that when he became U.S. attorney, one of the first things he did was arrange for Stokes to address every federal prosecutor in his district.

"We were in the midst of a huge county corruption scandal, and public service was taking a public beating," said Dettelbach. "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."

Gov. John R. Kasich called Stokes a "giant, who led by his conviction."

"I'm saddened by the loss of my friend Lou Stokes," said Kasich. "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."

Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson also released a statement on Stokes' passing:

"It is not often that someone is able to come along and impact the history of a city and nation as Congressman Louis Stokes did. The City of Cleveland’s success, history, and people were profoundly influenced by his work as a public servant. Cleveland’s progress as a city is directly tied to Congressman Stokes’ leadership and his career acts as a model for many on how to serve with integrity and dignity.

"The best way to honor Congressman Stokes is to remember the Stokes Era in Cleveland that he began along with his brother, the honorable Ambassador and Mayor Carl B. Stokes. Theirs is a legacy that is embedded within the past and future of Cleveland. My thoughts and prayers are with the family of Congressman Louis Stokes during this difficult time. Cleveland and the nation has lost a true champion of the people and I have lost a friend."

The Louis Stokes VA Medical Center said in a statement they are saddened by Congressman Stokes' passing and Cleveland VA Medical namesake.

"His legacy of servant leadership serves as a reminder and inspiration to us all as we work each day to contribute positively to our society as Congressman Stokes did.  Our staff and Veterans appreciated the grace, dignity and respect he expressed upon every visit to our medical center.  We honor his name and his confidence in us to serve Veterans, and we will miss him dearly."

The law firm of Squire Patton Boggs where Stokes served as a legal counsel told FOX 8 in a statement,

"We are deeply saddened by the passing of our colleague and friend Congressman Louis Stokes. We were privileged for more than twelve years to have this iconic figure as a member of our firm. We are proud to have been a part of his extraordinary life, and we celebrate his legacy as an historic Congressman, an exemplary lawyer, and a great human being. He was and will continue to be an inspiration to us all."

The Rev. Dr. Otis Moss, Jr., the Rev. E. Theophilus Caviness and Cleveland Councilman Joe Cimperman spoke with Fox 8 News in the Morning Thursday.

Caviness said he said that Stokes was a "genuine good person."

He's authentic, what you saw was what you got," he said.

Plans for a funeral service, as well as a public tribute to Congressman Stokes, are expected to be announced soon.

Several members of Congress and local leaders have released statements in memory of Congressman Stokes.

"We have lost a champion with the passing of Congressman Stokes,” said former state Sen. and Ohio Democratic Party Engagement Chair Nina Turner.

“He was a bright and shining star who made history as Ohio's first African-American member of Congress. During his tenure he accomplished a great deal for the city of Cleveland and northern Ohio. He was a transformational figure, particularly in black Ohio politics, who lifted his citizens and aspiring young African-American politicians as he climbed. Even in his later years, he continued to work on behalf of the citizens as a member of the Ohio Task Force on Community-Police Relations. Congressman Stokes' legacy is cemented in American history as a leader who broke many racial and social barriers.”

Cleveland Council President Kevin Kelley remembered Congressman Stokes as one of the greatest African American politicians of his time. Kelley said in his statement:


"He was the first black in Ohio to be elected to the United States Congress where he served 15 terms.

But Clevelanders know that Louis Stokes was more than a proud African American, more than just a politician. Nationally and locally he was a transformational leader who helped bring about vital and enduring social changes.

He was highly regarded and warmly respected by all races and nationalities and beloved by the thousands of constituents he represented over the decades as their voice in Washington. His story of growing up in poverty at the steady and hard-working hands of a single mother humbles us all. And his perseverance in achieving a college education and a degree in law is an inspiration to us all.

His mother, Louise, imbued in him and his brother, Carl, the first African American mayor of a big city, the desire and the understanding of the importance of education.

While he served in Congress some 30 years, his love of Cleveland never wavered and he came back to encourage the students who for a time attended his and Carl’s namesake school – the Carl & Louis Stokes Central Academy – as well as helping to move the city ever forward. He will be greatly missed and I extend my deepest condolences to his family.

His mark on Cleveland will be indelible. His memory will be honored throughout the ages."

U.S. Rep. Jim Renacci also released a statement in honor of Stokes:


“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. Senator Rob Portman also has remarked on Stokes' passing:

“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.”

Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Timothy J. McGinty said:

"Louis 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."

Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish said in his statement:

"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."

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine also released the following statement:

"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."

Many also took to Twitter: