Chuck Stokes: The “Gentleman” from Michigan AND Ohio
February 3, 2017
It is the luck of the draw to whom we are born – but what we make of our lives is up to us individually. If you live in the metro Detroit area, and perhaps watch Sunday morning television, you may have seen a man who has added value to the City of Detroit, region, state and nation: Louis “Chuck” Stokes, the host of WXYZ, Channel 7’s Spotlight on the News. Spotlight has been on the air informing, prodding, educating, and making viewers think for decades.
I have known Chuck for over 30 years and have been fortunate to be interviewed by him on Spotlight as we covered such diverse topics as juvenile justice, mental health, education, politics, international relations, and China.
Chuck’s infectious laugh and warm and caring personality allow him, as host of the show, to let his guests tell their story. If you looked for Chuck Stokes in the dictionary, you might find him defined as a gentle soul, gentleman, and decent human being.
Chuck comes from a storied and capable family. His father, Louis Stokes, who recently passed away (1925 – 2015) was an attorney, a change agent and politician from Cleveland, Ohio. He was the first black congressman elected in the state of Ohio, representing the east side of Cleveland. Louis served 15 terms in the United States House of Representative and was the first African American on the powerful Appropriations Committee. When he was elected to the House in 1969, there were all of 6 African Americans serving.
A trailblazing giant of a man, prior to his passing last summer he had penned an autobiography–along with David Chanoff–entitled: The Gentleman from Ohio. The inside flap of his book captured his impact on Ohio, the nation, and the world: “Prior to Louis Stokes’ (30-year) tenure in Congress he served for many years as a criminal defense lawyer and chairman of the Cleveland NAACP Legal Redress Committee. Among the Supreme Court Cases he argued, the Terry “Stop and Frisk” case is regarded as one of the twenty-five most significant cases in that Court’s history. The health care legislation he sponsored changed the way the health establishment treated women, minorities, and those most in need of help.”
The New York Times, writing in 2016 about his death from cancer stated, “Inadequate health care for minorities was a major concern of his, and he was an early advocate of federal intervention in the AIDS crisis, which was ravaging black communities in the 1990s. The Louis Stokes VA Medical Center in Cleveland is named after him. Interviewed in 2011, Mr. Stokes said he was particularly proud of sponsoring legislation that established the Office of Minority Health as a permanent federal agency. “That started the real work of that office,” he said.
Louis Stokes’ brother Carl (Chuck Stokes’ uncle) was Mayor of Cleveland from 1967 to 1971 and later became a television news anchor at WNBC in New York. He preceded his brother in death in 1996. Together, the two brothers cut a wide swath for human decency and social justice across this land. The powerful forward to his book is written by Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights icon. Reading the emotional and historical tour-de-force from Congressman Lewis is, itself, worth the price of the book as it sets the stage for a history lesson we all need to incorporate.
The first few sentences set the tone for a man who truly added value and made a difference for his constituents on the east side of Cleveland, Ohio, the nation and the world when he writes: “It is not too much to say that Louis Stokes and his brother Carl helped lead the way in establishing a place for African-Americans in the world of mainstream American politics. In doing that they helped rearrange our country’s political landscape. It was a historical achievement.” He concludes, “Stokes was an advocate, a fierce fighter for the principles he believed in. But he also tested his adversaries with respect and fairness.”
Bringing It Home
Since October, 1987, Chuck Stokes blazed his own trail back in Detroit as the editorial/public affairs director for ABC affiliate, WXYZ-TV/Channel 7. He joined the station in 1981 and today is known as the face of Detroit’s Channel 7, serving as moderator and producer of “Spotlight on the News,” Detroit’s longest-running weekly news and public affairs show. If you’ve been in the news or are in the know, then you have on “Spotlight”. His in-depth interviews have included a host of prominent politicians, entertainers, religious, community and business leaders. More of Chuck Stokes accomplishments: http://www.wxyz.com/about-us/staff/chuck-stokes
Admired and respected by all, Chuck inherited his father’s intelligence, sense of fairness, work ethic and “gentlemanly” ways. It is heartwarming to know that there are good people in the world like Louis, Carl and Chuck Stokes who have blazed a trail for good, decent, fair-minded people to emulate.
Philosopher George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Reading “The Gentleman from Ohio”” may allow us to have a better grasp of what it means to lead—and leave our country and world a better place than we found it. This desire is important, perhaps, Now more than ever.
While Louis and Carl are enjoying their just rewards in heaven for their good work on earth, Chuck continues to do good work in the flesh here today. Thank you, Chuck, for sharing your father and uncle’s example, and for your continued efforts to make this world a better place for us all.