Former U.S. Rep. Louis Stokes, who in 1968 became the first black member of Congress elected from Ohio, died on Tuesday at the age of 90 after a brave battle with lung and brain cancer, WBNS-10TV reports.
Born in Cleveland, the iconic politician served 30 years in Congress before retiring in 1999. During his tenure, Stokes sat on the House Appropriations Committee and the House Intelligence Committee.
He was the chairman of the House Select Committee on Assassinations that assessed the deaths of President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the news station notes. Stokes also chaired the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct and was a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
His family released a statement following his death:
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.
President Barack Obama released his own statement on Wednesday honoring Stokes:
Michelle and I were saddened to learn of the passing of former Congressman Louis Stokes. As a founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus and the first African-American to represent the state of Ohio in Congress, Lou believed deeply in fairness and the idea that every American should have the same opportunity to succeed.
Growing up in Depression-era Cleveland with his mother and brother Carl, Lou triumphed over hardship to become a passionate voice for those less fortunate. He fought to expand access to quality healthcare in struggling communities and worked tirelessly on behalf of hardworking Ohioans. Lou leaves behind an indelible legacy in the countless generations of young leaders that he inspired, and he will be sorely missed. Michelle and I send our condolences to his wife Jay and the family and friends who loved him so dearly.
Read more at WBNS-10TV.