By the time this photo was snapped on Dec. 5, 1979, Carl B. Stokes had left the political scene, winning an Emmy as a news anchor for WNBC-TV in New York. But the 8-year-old newspaper spread from the Call & Post, dated the year of Stokes’ leave as mayor in November 1971, reveals Cleveland still loomed in his mind.
Stokes’ life is headlined with firsts. His 1962 entrance into politics began as the first Black Democrat elected into the Ohio House of Representatives. November 1967 saw Stokes elected as the first Black mayor of Cleveland.
At a time when people of color made up roughly 37% of Cleveland’s population, Stokes’ 50.5% majority-win exhibited the city’s favoritism for Stokes — its choice over Seth Taft, the grandson of a former president.
Under Stokes, Cleveland would see its first Black law director, first Black safety director and a Black woman appointed to a commissioner rank among nearly 3,000 city employees hired.
The Call & Post spread records Stokes’ historic hiring. Why particular photos are crossed out, and who wielded the pen, is unknown. Though there are some notables: Cleveland’s Department of Health and Welfare Director Dr. E. Frank Ellis left his position in 1978 to become president of the American Public Health Association. Photographed beside him, Dr. Bailus Walker, Jr. would take the same presidency in 1988, founding its first caucus, the Black Caucus of Health Workers.
As for Stokes, he returned to Cleveland as a municipal judge from 1983-1994, making him one of the first Black people to serve all three branches of U.S. government.