Oliver White Hill, Sr

Oliver White Hill, Sr

Birth
Richmond, Richmond City, Virginia, USA
Death 5 Aug 2007 (aged 100)
Richmond, Richmond City, Virginia, USA
Burial Richmond, Henrico County, Virginia, USA
Plot Mausoleum C, level C, space 27.
Memorial ID 20841462 · View Source
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Civil Rights Pioneer. An attorney, he was one of the prime movers in ending the 'separate but equal' doctrine. Born Oliver White, he was raised in Roanoke from an early age, took his stepfather's last name, and attended the elite Dunbar High School of Washington, DC because there were no high quality high schools for blacks closer to his home. Mr. Hill graduated from Howard University in 1931 and from Howard Law School in 1933 where he was second in his class to future Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, then after initially practicing law in Roanoke he relocated to Richmond in 1939 where he remained for the rest of his long life. Though never an 'accommodationist', Mr. Hill still had to work within the segregated system prevailing at the time; in the 1930s and 1940s he fought for better pay for black teachers and for improved school facilities and bus transportation, winning the important 1940 case Alston v. School Board of Norfolk, Va. which established the right of teachers in black schools to equal compensation. Drafted into the US Army in 1943, he served as a Staff Sergeant and made the D-Day landing on Omaha Beach. Returning to Richmond, he won a case establishing the right of equal bus transportation to segregated schools, then in 1948 he became the first black member of the Richmond City Council since Reconstruction, and though he served only one term he paved the way for many others. Mr. Hill's most important legal effort started in 1951 when he accepted the desegregation petition of a group of students from Robert Morton High School in Farmville. The case of Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County was a part of, and led to his involvement as counsel in, the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case of 1954. Though targeted with abuse and once even having a cross burned in his yard, he kept fighting, serving on President Truman's Committee on Government Contract Compliance in 1952 and on the Democratic Party Biracial Committee on Civil Rights in 1960. Always ready to break a color line, he joined the reception queue at Governor J. Lindsay Almond's 1958 inauguration, but the expected outcry never materialized as Almond was an old associate, the two men respecting each other even if they did not always agree. Twice president of the Old Dominion Bar Association, he was a member of the committee which revised the Virginia Constitution in 1971. He received the Equal Justice Award from the NAACP in 1986, retired as senior partner of Hill, Tucker, and Marsh in 1998, was presented with America's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by Bill Clinton in 1999, and in 2000 published a memoir entitled "The Big Bang: Brown v. Board of Education, The Autobiography of Oliver W. Hill, Sr.". In 2005 he received the NAACP's top award, the Spingarn Medal. Though blind and in a wheelchair in his final years, Mr. Hill remained mentally sharp and kept-up an interest in current affairs until the end. Today a street and a courthouse in Richmond carry his name and his image is one of those depicted on a Civil Rights monument on the State Capitol grounds. Looking back at the famous desegregation decision of 1954, he once said that without it "Martin Luther King wouldn't have gotten to first base".

Bio by: Bob Hufford


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Originally Created by: Bob Hufford
  • Added: 8 Aug 2007
  • Find A Grave Memorial 20841462
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Oliver White Hill, Sr (1 May 1907–5 Aug 2007), Find A Grave Memorial no. 20841462, citing Forest Lawn Cemetery and Mausoleum, Richmond, Henrico County, Virginia, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .