Dead, Mildred Loving on May 2, 2008, at the age of 68, she was a Civil Rights activist in the 1960s, born on July 22, 1939, in Central Point, Virginia.
She was of African-American and Native American descent and in marrying Richard Loving,–who was white–violated Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act.
After the couple was ordered to leave the state, Mildred wrote to then-Attorney General Robert Kennedy who suggested she contact the American Civil Liberties Union.
In 1967, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Virginia law. Mildred Loving was partially African American and Native American. Throughout her life, she referred to herself as Indian rather than black.
Mildred’s family had deep roots in the area around Central Point, Virginia, where blacks and whites mixed freely with little racial tension even at the height of the Jim Crow era.
As a girl, Mildred was so skinny; she was nicknamed “Bean.” She was just 11 years old and attending an all-black school when she first met Richard Loving, a 17-year-old white high school student. Quietly, the two fell in love and began dating and when Mildred became pregnant at the age of 18, the two decided to get married.
They returned to the small town of Central Point, Virginia. Based on an anonymous tip, local police raided their home at night, hoping to find them having sex, which was also a crime according to Virginia law.
When the officers found the Lovings sleeping in their bed, Mildred pointed out their marriage certificate on the bedroom wall. The Lovings were charged under Section 20-58 of the Virginia Code, which prohibited interracial couples from being married out of state and then returning to Virginia, and Section 20-59, which classified miscegenation as a felony, punishable by a prison sentence of between one and five years.
But Judge Leon Bazile offered to spare the couple jail time if they promised to leave the state and not return for 25 years.
Not surprisingly, they chose banishment.
In 1963, while following the debates surrounding what would become the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Mildred wrote a letter to the attorney general, Robert Kennedy, asking if there was anything in the proposed legislation that would allow her and her husband to move back to Virginia.
Recognising that the law would not benefit the young couple, Kennedy suggested they contact the American Civil Liberties Union. When the Lovings met with their attorney Bernard Cohen, who would take their case all the way to the Supreme Court, he had to borrow office space in Washington, so the Lovings would not risk arrest by going to Virginia together.
Previous Supreme Court challenges to laws banning interracial marriage had failed, but, according to Philip Hirschkop, the other lead attorney on the case, in 1967 the time was right.
Although the two attorneys summoned legal, sociological and anthropological arguments, the most poignant moment came when Cohen told the justices that Richard Loving had asked him to “tell the court I love my wife and it’s just unfair that I can’t live with her in Virginia”.
After their win, the couple moved back to Central Point, where Richard, a mason, built a breeze-block home for the family.
Tragedy struck when he was killed by a drunk driver in 1975.