Photo credits: The Black Heritage Society of WA State, Inc.
Charles Moorehead Stokes (pictured) was an American politician, jurist, and lawyer who served several terms in the Washington State House of Representatives.
Stokes was born in Fredonia, Kansas to a Baptist minister and was raised in Pratt, Kansas. He graduated from the University of Kansas in 1931. After briefly practicing law for the state’s revenue commission Stokes, in 1943, moved to Seattle, Washington where he entered into private practice.
In 1950, Stokes was elected to the Washington State House of Representatives from Washington’s 37th legislative district as a Republican. He was the first African-American legislator elected in the state from King County and just the second in state history overall.
At the end of his first legislativeive term, he was selected “Outstanding Freshman Legislator” by the Young Republican Club.
Stokes was re-elected in 1952. In that same year, he campaigned for Dwight Eisenhower as a delegate to the Republican National Convention during which he delivered an address from the national platform. In 1954, he sought election to the Washington State Senate but was defeated.
In that same year, Stokes headed Nelson Rockefeller‘s campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in Washington.
During his time in the legislature, Stokes was credited with initiating the idea of a state lottery. He was also known for introducing one of the most sweeping civil rights bills in the state of Washington–up until his time in the House of Representatives.
In the years following his exit from politics, Stokes helped co-found KZAM-AM and Liberty Bank (absorbed into Emerald City Bank in 1988, which, in turn, was taken over by KeyBank). In 1968, he was appointed to fill a vacancy in a district court judgeship.
Stokes held the district court judgeship position he was appointed to until his retirement in 1978.
Stokes was married and had three children. He died of cancer in 1996 at the age of 93. The “Judge Charles M. Stokes Overlook” near Seattle’s Judkins Park is named after him. Stephanie Stokes Oliver is a former editor for Essence Magazine.
In 2004, she wrote a biography about her father called, Song for My Father: Memoir of an All-American Family.
*BlackThen.com writer/historian Victor Trammell edited and contributed to this report.