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Stokes, Carl B. (1927-1996)

Carl B. Stokes

Carl B. Stokes

Carl Burton Stokes (1927-1996) was an American politician of the Democratic Party who served as the 51st mayor of Cleveland, Ohio. Elected on November 7, 1967, he was the first African-American mayor of a major U.S. city.

Stokes was born in Cleveland to Charles Stokes, a laundry worker who died when Carl was two years old, and Louise (Stone) Stokes, a cleaning woman who then raised Carl and his brother, Louis Stokes, in Cleveland’s first federally funded housing project for the poor, Outhwaite Homes. Although a good student, Stokes dropped out of high school in 1944, worked briefly, then joined the U.S. Army at age 18. After his discharge in 1946, Stokes returned to Cleveland and earned his high school diploma in 1947.

After earning his bachelor’s degree from the University of Minnesota in 1954, he graduated from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in 1956 and was admitted to the Ohio bar in 1957. While studying law he was a probation officer. For four years, he served as assistant prosecutor and became partner in the law firm of Stokes, Stokes, Character, and Terry.

Elected the first black Democrat to the Ohio House of Representatives in 1962, he served three terms and narrowly lost a bid for mayor of Cleveland in 1965. His victory two years later drew national attention, as he was the first African-American mayor of a large American city. Able to mobilize both black and white voters, he defeated Seth Taft, the grandson of a former U.S. president, with a 50.5 majority. As mayor, Stokes opened city hall jobs to blacks and women.

After his mayoral administration, Stokes became the first black anchorman in New York City when he took a job with television station WNBC-TV. President Bill Clinton appointed him U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Seychelles. In 1970, the National League of Cities voted him its first black president-elect.

—Courtesy of Wikipedia

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