He was educated in the Cleveland Public Schools, graduating from Central High School. Following three years of service in the U.S. Army, Stokes returned to Cleveland and attended Western Reserve University.
He earned his doctor of laws degree from Cleveland-Marshall law school in 1953. Stokes practiced law for 14 years before serving in Congress.
As a practicing lawyer, he participated in three cases in the U.S. Supreme Court, including arguing the landmark “stop and frisk” case of Terry v. Ohio. He played a pivotal role in the quest for social and economic justice, civil rights and equality throughout his career.
Stokes received several awards and honors, recognizing his national leadership and commitment to public service.
A number of landmarks in the city of Cleveland and nationally have been named in his honor, including the Louis Stokes Cleveland Veterans Administration Hospital, the Louis Stokes Annex of the Cleveland Public Library, the Louis Stokes Health Sciences Center at Case Western Reserve University and buildings at Wilberforce University and Central State University, both in Wilberforce, Ohio, Howard University in Washington, D.C., and the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md.
Stokes was the recipient of 27 honorary doctorate degrees. He received the Congressional Distinguished Service Award in 2003, becoming the first African-American to earn this honor.
He was honored by the American Bar Association Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession with a 2010 Spirit of Excellence Award for his dedication to expanding opportunity in the legal profession to all minorities.
In 2011, he was inducted into the International Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta.
Stokes served on the advisory board to the International Spy Museum, the board of the Western Reserve Historical Society, the board of directors of Forest City Enterprises Inc. and the board of directors of the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland.
In 2006, he served on the National Science Board’s Commission on 21st Century Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.
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