Biographical / Historical
The Walter Jr. (1927-2012) and Jessie Carter (1929 - ) Stokes Family Papers largely document the lives of a Twentieth Century Louisville, Kentucky African-American family through family photos, clippings, manuscripts and printed materials. Walter Jr. a long-time sales manager for the Commonwealth Life Insurance Company (CLICO), assembled manuscripts, clippings, booklets and photos that chronicle both he and his wife’s life and work. Jessie Stokes, a Louisville Free Public Library clerk and community volunteer, organized materials that chronicle the couple’s travels, often with company colleagues, as well as her volunteer activities and the achievements of family members, including “Harvest of Seasons” honoring Walter’s uncle Raymond Jackson . (Daughter of James and Annie Carter, Jessie Stokes moved at about twelve years of age to Louisville from Earlington, Kentucky with her recently divorced mother.) There are files and photos that document Walter’s childhood and Jessie and Walter Stokes’ educational progress in the 1930s to the late 1940s through racially separate public schools including Louisville’s Virginia Avenue Elementary, Madison Junior High, Central High and later Louisville Municipal College of the University of Louisville. There is also manuscript and photo documentation of the childhood activities, education and achievements of their daughters, Sherri Stokes Chandler and Carole Stokes-Brewer, as well as Sherri’s son, Lamont Chandler. In addition, Walter and Jessie Stokes compiled substantial documentation on the Commonwealth Life Insurance Company, including African-Americans on early sales teams and the company retiree organization.
Walter was raised by his Mother’s sister, Colela Jackson Calbert, and her husband, Love Calbert, a longtime Louisville mail carrier, postal union leader and Republican. The Stokes Family Papers contain substantial documentation of Love Calbert’s role as a collector of family memorabilia and photos and he and Colela’s hobby as flower gardeners and leaders over many decades at R. E. Jones United Methodist Church. (For a brief time in the 1920s, Love was principal of Alachua County Training School in Alachua, Florida.) There are numerous photos and other documents that shed light on Love Calbert’s college days in the 1920s at Kentucky State University and Colela’s attendance in the same decade at Simmons University in Louisville, Kentucky and Clark University in Atlanta. Walter’s mother, Florence Jackson Stokes, from College Hill, Madison County, Kentucky, and his father, Walter Stokes Sr. from Ashland, Kentucky also attended Simmons University in the 1920s and photos and other documents from their attendance are found as well as evidence of their short-lived marriage. (For some years, Florence worked as a housekeeper for Ethel DuPont, an Old Louisville resident, labor activist, and descendant of the famed DuPont chemical family though little evidence of that employment is found in the Stokes Family Papers.)
The Stokes Family Papers also chronicle Walter’s work as a community volunteer, especially with the Chestnut Street Branch of the YMCA and the Boy Scouts, as well as Jessie’s literary creations (poetry) and her support for the Louisville Free Public Library system, especially through her annual “Derby Fever” program. In addition, there is a large collection of funeral programs and obituaries of family members and community figures that frequently includes biographical sketches. Several files of photos and other documents—some of which were exhibited at the public library-- illumine the substantial work in Louisville of Jewell McNari, a longtime dance instructor among African-American youth. Jessie Stokes and her daughters had been McNari students.