Fifty-five years have passed since Thomas F. Patton, Republic Steel General Counsel, delivered the commencement address to Cleveland-Marshall Law School’s Class of 1953. A young veteran, Louis Stokes, destined to be Ohio’s first African American Congressman, was a member of that class. Three years later, Louis Stokes’ brother, the late Carl B. Stokes, destined to be the first black mayor of a major American city, would also graduate from Cleveland-Marshall. Together, these two alumni changed the political landscape of America.
Fifty-five years after his own graduation, Congressman Stokes will deliver the commencement address to Cleveland State University’s Cleveland-Marshall College of Law Class of 2008 during commencement exercises on Saturday, May 17 at 2:00 p.m. in the Bert L. and Iris S. Wolstein Center at 2000 Prospect Avenue.
During the ceremony, the University will honor the contributions of the Honorable Carl B. Stokes to the state and country with a posthumous honorary Doctor of Laws Degree.
This year, as in the past, the law school’s alumni judges will process into Wolstein Center and join Cleveland-Marshall Dean Geoffrey S. Mearns, members of the law faculty and University officers on the stage. Cleveland State President Michael Schwartz, Chairman of the CSU Board of Trustees Ronald E. Weinberg, Cleveland-Marshall Law Alumni Association President-Elect Gary Adams, Cleveland-Marshall Visiting Committee Chair Georgia Froelich and Student Bar Association President Nicholas Hanna will also speak briefly to the graduates and their families.
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The Honorable Louis Stokes
The Honorable Louis Stokes was the first African American ever elected to the U.S. Congress in Ohio. A native Clevelander, he served in the U.S. Army during WWII, graduated from Case Western Reserve University in 1949 and earned his law degree from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in 1953. As a new lawyer, Stokes served as counsel to the United Freedom Movement and as an attorney in two cases brought before the United States Supreme Court, Lucas v. Rhodes (1967), the anti-gerrymandering case, and Terry v. Ohio (1968), the “stop and frisk” case. Elected to Congress in 1968, he represented the citizens of the 11th Congressional District for 30 years and held numerous prestigious appointments, including membership on the House Appropriations Committee, chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, chair of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, and membership on the House Iran Contra Panel. He retired in 1998 and is presently Senior Counsel in the Washington, DC, office of Squire Sanders & Dempsey.
The Honorable Carl B. Stokes (1927-1996)
When the late Honorable Carl B. Stokes was elected Mayor of Cleveland in 1967, he became the first African American ever elected mayor of a major American city. Born in Cleveland, Carl Stokes, like his brother, was raised in the “projects.” Following service in the U.S. Army, he earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Minnesota (1954) and his law degree from Cleveland-Marshall (1956). In 1962, he became the first black Democrat ever elected to the Ohio General Assembly. In 1967, when Clevelanders elected him their mayor, he became the first black American ever elected mayor of a major American city. He served two terms in that office but declined to seek a third, moving instead to New York City, where he became that city’s first black news anchor. He returned to Cleveland in 1980 to serve as general legal counsel for the United Auto Workers. Afterwards, he was a judge on the Cleveland Municipal Court (1983-94) and U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Seychelles. Stokes died in Cleveland on April 3, 1996.
Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, founded in 1897 as the Cleveland Law School, was the first law school in Ohio to admit women and one of the first to admit minorities. In 1946, the Cleveland Law School merged with the John Marshall School of Law, founded in 1916, to become the Cleveland-Marshall Law School. In 1969, the Law School joined Cleveland’s new public university as its sixth college and was renamed the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law of Cleveland State University. Early graduates of the College of Law laid the foundation for the legal profession in Northeast Ohio. Now in its 111th year, Cleveland-Marshall is preparing promising students to be America’s leaders in the 21st century in law, business, nonprofit agencies and government.
For more information on Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, please visit www.law.csuohio.edu or call 216.687.6886.
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