Longtime Ohio Congressman Louis Stokes dies at 90

August 20, 2015


Former U.S. Rep. Louis Stokes, a 15-term congressman from Ohio who took on tough assignments looking into assassinations and scandals, has died at the age of 90, his family said Wednesday. He died peacefully at home Tuesday, August 18, 2015 with his wife, Jay, at his side, a month after he announced he had brain and lung cancer. “During his illness, he confronted it as he did life — with bravery and strength,” his family said in a statement.

Stokes was elected to the House in 1968, becoming Ohio’s first black member of Congress and one of its most respected and influential. Just a year earlier, his brother, Carl, had been elected mayor of Cleveland — the first black elected mayor of a major U.S. city. The White House issued a statement from President Barack Obama that noted how Stokes overcame hardships while growing up in Cleveland and praised him for his belief that everyone should have a chance to succeed.

“Lou leaves behind an indelible legacy in the countless generations of young leaders that he inspired, and he will be sorely missed,” Obama said. U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, a Cleveland-area Democrat, called Stokes her “predecessor, mentor and friend.” “He was a giant of a man — the person everyone measured themselves against,” Fudge said in a statement. “It was easy to think of him as almost immortal.” U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, an Ohio Democrat, said in a statement that Stokes “always did the right thing.” “He’ll be remembered in the communities he strengthened, the veterans he served, and the many lives he touched,” Brown said. Stokes headed the House’s Select Committee on Assassinations that investigated the slayings of President John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in the late 1970s and concluded there “probably” had been a conspiracy in both cases.

Later, he served on the Iran-Contra investigative committee, where he drew attention for his unflinching interrogation of Lt. Col. Oliver North. He was just as unflinching with his probe of fellow Democrats when he led the ethics committee investigation of a corruption scandal known as ABSCAM, which led to convictions of one senator and six House members. The senator and five of the House members were Democrats.