Late Disabilities director to be remembered with section of I-35.

State Rep. Paul Wesselhöft announced today that a ceremony designating a section of Interstate 35 Pauls Valley for the late Office of Disability Concerns Director Joe Steven Stokes will take place at 10 a.m. Oct. 11 at the first Pauls Valley exit.

Wesselhöft was the author of House Bill 1759, which named a portion of I-35 in honor of Stokes.

Stokes suffered a spinal cord injury in 1967. Through vocational rehabilitation, he was able to enroll in East Central University in Ada, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1973. He worked as a counselor at East Central University and earned his master’s degree before going to work for the Oklahoma State Department of Education.

In 1989, then Gov. Henry Bellmon called Stokes into his office to offer him the position of director of the Office of Disability Concerns, which he held for the remainder of his life. In his position as director, he worked as a liaison between the office and the Oklahoma Legislature.

“As director, Steve Stokes worked tirelessly to promote the interests of people with disabilities to receive the help they needed,” said Wesselhöft. “He promoted a hand up rather than a hand out for people with disabilities. I miss his presence in policy discussions of disability concerns.”

In 1985, Stokes was named Handicapped Citizen of the Year in Oklahoma. In 2008, he received the George B. Lewis Award as Outstanding Person with a Disability in Oklahoma City. He passed away at the age of 62.