Remembering Louis Stokes

Congressman Louis StokesThe Honorable Louis Stokes, the first African American congressman from Ohio and civil rights pioneer, died on August 18, 2015 at his home near Cleveland, leaving behind a lifelong legacy of service on behalf of underserved communities.

Stokes was elected to the United States House of Representatives in 1968, where he served for 30 years and in a number of leadership roles, including as a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and a member of the House Appropriations and Intelligence Committees. 

While serving on the House Appropriations Committee, Stokes committed to rectifying the lack of underrepresented minorities in the STEM fields. In 1991, when a program to increase the number of underrepresented STEM degrees was mandated by Congress, Stokes’ colleagues opted to name the initiative the Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) in his honor. Since the inception of LSAMP, over 500,000 baccalaureate degrees have been awarded to STEM majors.

In 2013, The Ohio State University and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion received a Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Program grant. The $3.5 million grant, funded through the National Science Foundation, created an Ohio alliance connecting Ohio State and ten other colleges and universities in the state that is working to double the number of baccalaureate degrees completed in STEM fields at the partner institutions within five years.

“The Honorable Louis Stokes had a strong and continued interest in civil rights, equality, and social and economic justice. His work will continue through The Ohio LSAMP Alliance, which is making a difference for minority STEM majors at Ohio State and our partner institutions by giving them the tools they need to be successful,” said Dr. Barbara Fink, The Ohio LSAMP Alliance Director.

OSU President Drake speaks with Louis Stokes Louis Stokes speaks with Ohio State President Michael V. Drake, MD at the President and Provost's Diversity Lecture and Cultural Arts Series.

Well before Ohio State’s receipt of the LSAMP grant, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion was privileged to be able to include Congressman Stokes in a number of its most prestigious programs and events. Most recently, on March 5, 2015, Stokes spoke at the President and Provost's Diversity Lecture and Cultural Arts Series. Stokes, at age 90, spoke for over an hour about his life experiences as a child, a World War II soldier, a civil rights lawyer, a U.S. Congressman, and a college professor.

Video of President and Provost’s Diversity Lecture featuring Louis Stokes

Alonzo Gaither, Ernest Spaights, Jaqueline Jackson, Louis Stokes and Henry G. Parks jr.
From left to right: Alonzo “Jake” Gaither, Ernest Spaights, Jaqueline Jackson, Louis Stokes, and Henry G. Parks, Jr. at the 1973 Graduate & Professional Schools Visitation Days banquet.

A long-time supporter of this office, Stokes was the keynote speaker at ODI’s Graduate & Professional Schools Visitation Days banquet in 1973, a program started by the late Dr. Frank Hale, Jr., and again in April 1980, as part of an academic enrichment and cultural arts program housed in the then Office of Minority Affairs, where he spoke about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. Stokes' talk was based on his role as the Chairman of the Select House Assassinations Committee, formed in 1976 to investigate the deaths of Dr. King and President Kennedy.

With a career spanning many decades and many arenas, Louis Stokes was an undisputed champion for social justice. All of us in the Office of Diversity are grateful for everything that he did throughout the years to support our work.

We will miss him sorely.

Professor Sharon L. Davies
Vice Provost for Diversity and Inclusion
Chief Diversity Officer
Executive Director, Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race & Ethnicity