Stanley Eugene Tolliver, Sr. was born in October, 1925 in Cleveland, Ohio. Tolliver graduated from East Technical High School in Cleveland and earned his Bachelor’s degree from Baldwin Wallace University. He then pursued an LLD and JD degree from the Cleveland State Marshall School of Law. Tolliver advocated the principles of diversity, equity, and inclusion through his practice of law.
As a criminal defense attorney, he took on numerous controversial cases of police brutality and racially charged situations, such as the Hough and Glenville Riots in the 1960’s. He served as legal counsel for numerous civil rights organizations in Cleveland, Ohio such as the Congress for Racial Equality (CORE), the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) under Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the NAACP, and the National Conference of Black Lawyers.
Throughout his career, Tolliver advocated for women and minorities in the legal profession, giving them support for their bids to run for office and defending them when they faced discrimination. In 1965, Tolliver traveled to Jacksonville, Mississippi for the signing of the Voting Rights Act and was featured in live television coverage of the event. Tolliver was the only African American attorney involved in the defense of the students charged in the Kent State anti-Vietnam War protest.
Tolliver was an outspoken advocate for the desegregation of Cleveland Public Schools and after the school system’s boards of education were determined to be segregating illegally, he was appointed by a Federal judge to sit on committees to monitor desegregation. In 1981, Tolliver was elected to membership on the Cleveland Board of Education and was elected as president of the Board twice during his twelve years of service. He advocated more parent involvement in the lives of Cleveland school children and pushed for the hiring of more female and minority building contractors and professional staff.
At the end of his long career as a civil rights advocate, Tolliver was awarded the NAACP Medal of Freedom.