Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Mildred Loving, pioneer of love

Mildred Loving, of the delightfully appropriately named Supreme Court case Loving v. Virginia has died.


Richard (white) and Mildred (black/Native American), residents of Virginia, went to Washington, D.C. to get married in 1958 because Virginia banned interracial marriages. As a matter of fact, it made them felonies.

Upon their return, they started living together as man and wife until a 2 a.m. raid by the local sheriff resulted in their arrest. They pleaded guilty and were sentenced to jail, suspended so long as they left Virginia for 25 years!

They were, by all accounts, simple, down-home folks who didn't like the city and were not setting out to be civil rights pioneers. They were simply a young couple in love. Wanting to return home to Virginia they started legal action with the help of the ACLU that finally resulted in the unanimous June 12, 1967 Supreme Court decision that invalidated Virginia's law and any others like it as unconstitutional.

Sadly, the Lovings didn't get to enjoy their victory for very long, as Richard was killed and Mildred badly hurt in a 1975 car accident. They did have three children before that tragedy, however, and Mildred was blessed with grandchildren as well. The news reports suggest her health was never really good after the crash, which cost her an eye. She was 68 when she died.

The willingness of the Lovings to fight for their love played a direct role in the course of my life. My first wife (a Grenadian) and I (white dude) got married in 1979, just a dozen years after the Loving case, ironically in Virginia. My eldest daughter and my son are the fantastic result. Unfortunately that marriage, itself, ran aground on some rocks eventually.

My second wife is also from the West Indies, in her case Jamaica, and another beautiful daughter blesses us.

I've had a bird's eye view of the changes Loving wrought. back in the late 1970s and early 1980s interracial couples were rare enough that we'd always acknowledge each other if we happened to cross paths in the street.

Nowadays we're not even the only interracial couple in our small church and there are so many hues represented in my youngest daughter's preschool that there's no remarking on it at all.

All because of Mildred and Richard Loving. They never set out to be heroes and never wore the mantle comfortably. They just wanted to love each other without being molested by the state. And that ended up making them heroes despite themselves.

1 comment:

Nicest Girl said...

“When my late husband, Richard, and I got married in Washington, DC in 1958, it wasn’t to make a political statement or start a fight. We were in love, and we wanted to be married.

…Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me, even if others thought he was the ‘wrong kind of person’ for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry.

…I am proud that Richard’s and my name are on a court case that can help reinforce the love, the commitment, the fairness, and the family that so many people, black or white, young or old, gay or straight, seek in life. I support the freedom to marry for all. That’s what Loving, and loving, are all about.”

~Mildred Loving, 2007

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