In 1931, Charles M. Stokes graduated from the University of Kansas Law School and opened his own law practice in Leavenworth, Kansas. In the late 1930s, he was appointed to Kansas Commission of Revenue and Taxation in Topeka, as an Assistant Attorney. He moved to Seattle in 1943 after he learned that only one Black lawyer practiced in the city (John Prim in the prosecuting attorney’s office).
Stokes helped enact many laws that have significantly impacted the citizens of Washington State. As the local NAACP lobbyist, he became an executive member of the Washington State Committee Against Discrimination in Employment which was largely responsible for the passage of the 1949 Washington State Fair Employment Practices Act. Then in 1950, the 37th District in central and southeast Seattle elected him as the first Black state legislator from King County. A dedicated Republican, he served as the first Black Vice President of the Young Republican National Federation. Most importantly, he co-sponsored the Civil Rights Omnibus Bill, which placed Washington in the national forefront of civil rights legislation.
In 1962, Stokes joined LMBA members, Charles V. Johnson and William ‘Fred’ Lockhart to form one of Seattle’s first Black law firms. This three-person minority firm produced two of the first three Black judges in King County. In 1968, Charles Stokes became the first Black judge appointed to the King County District Court. That same year, he helped found the Loren Miller Bar Club. Retiring from the bench in 1978, he practiced law from an office on Seattle’s 12th Avenue. Upon his death in 1996, an overlook on the I-90 Freeway was named in his honor.