Former Ohio Congressman, political icon Louis Stokes has died

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CLEVELAND -- Former Ohio Congressman Louis Stokes has died following a courageous battle with lung and brain cancer.

The 90-year-old political icon passed away late Tuesday according to his family.

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.

His family released the following statement Wednesday morning,

“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 he 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.”

In a wide-ranging interview with FOX 8 in late 2013, Stokes reflected on a life he said he never expected.

“I grew up in the projects in Cleveland,” he said, “I didn’t even have these kind of dreams.”

Stokes represented Cleveland and east-side communities in Congress for 30 years until 1999. He chaired a committee that re-examined the assassinations of President John Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

He said he did have dreams of being a lawyer, but didn’t know how he’d go to college.

“I knew my mother couldn’t send me to college,” he said, “(so) college wasn’t in my future.”

But, as he often did, Stokes found a way. He served in the military in World War II, which made him eligible for the GI Bill. He graduated from Cleveland Marshall Law School.

“I took advantage of the GI bill, and went to college,” he said, “and the rest is history.”

Following his retirement from Congress, Stokes joined the law firm of Squire, Sanders &Dempsey, where he served as Senior Counsel.  He retired from the firm in 2012.

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