Stokes Tolbert

Stokes Munroe Tolbert passed away March 12, 2019, in Tucson, AZ. He was born September 4, 1923, in Columbus, GA, the youngest of five sons of Wheeler H. Tolbert and Love McDuffie Tolbert. Stokes attended Emory University until joining the U.S. Navy during World War II.

After the war, the GI Bill allowed him to complete his BA at Yale University. In 1945, he married Jean Wolsted. He then earned a PhD in Economics at Harvard University, and he and Jean eventually had four children. His PhD research took him and his young family to New Delhi, India, to work on the newly independent country’s early economic development plans.

After brief stints at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York and Standard Oil Co., he went back to economic development, spending most of his professional career working as an economist for the World Bank, based in Washington, D.C. With the Bank, he held posts in Bangkok, Thailand, and back in New Delhi. He took a leave to serve as Director of the US Agency for International Development Mission in Indonesia from 1967-1969, and then returned to the World Bank to become Director of the Tourism Projects Department and then the Industrial Development and Finance Department. Before retiring in 1986, he co-wrote a book with Warren Baum, Investing in Development: Lessons of World Bank Experience, published by Oxford University Press, and translated into many languages.

His work at the World Bank ignited a love of travel and fostered a sense of international community. After retirement and Jean’s death, he moved to Tucson, Arizona, where he met and married his second wife, Elizabeth Thompson, in 1993. He became active with many community organizations, including Tucson Committee on Foreign Relations, Tucson Museum of Art, and Opera Guild of Southern Arizona. He is survived by his children, Leslie (m. Paul St. John), Kim (m. Alex Klimas), Paige (m. Jim Mulholland) and Stephen (m. Jean Pecar), his grandchildren, Lindsay, Alex, Stephen, Jennifer, Quinn, and Kyle, and his great-grandchildren, Zachary and Caitlin. Stokes led a life of adventure and generosity of spirit.

He shared his enthusiasm for living fully, peppering it with wry wit. His particular lifelong passion for justice and equity was evident in his career aiding low-income countries and his support of many progressive national and international organizations. After working to ensure that others had the right to die with dignity, he himself departed on his own terms with grace and strength in hospice care, surrounded by family from around the country. Donations in his honor can be made to the Southern Poverty Law Center at

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