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Eyes on the Prize
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Carl Stokes (1927-1996)

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Mayor elect Carl Stokes giving a speech, November 8, 1967.

Former prosecutor and Ohio state representative Carl Stokes narrowly lost Cleveland's mayoral election in 1965 but tried again two years later. Unlike Richard Hatcher, running simultaneously in Gary, Indiana, Stokes was seeking office in a majority white city, and he tried not to alienate those voters. He went so far as to ask Martin Luther King, Jr., whom Stokes greatly admired, not to conduct marches in Cleveland during the campaign. "It came down to the hard game of politics," he said, "whether we wanted a cause or a victory. I wanted to win." He did win, defeating Republican Seth Taft and becoming the first black mayor of a major American city. Stokes was in office for two terms and later served as a news anchor, judge, and U.S. ambassador.

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