Mildred Loving on the 40th anniversary of Loving v Virginia
Mildred Loving's challenge to Virginia's ban on interracial marriage led to the landmark 1967 Supreme Court ruling striking down such laws nationwide. Loving died May 2 at the age of 68.
From the Los Angeles Times
By Jocelyn Y. Stewart, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer
May 7, 2008
For marrying the only man she ever loved, Mildred Loving paid a price: She was arrested, convicted and banished from her home state.
In the 1950s, the Commonwealth of Virginia handed down such punishments to couples whose love the state did not sanction: She was black. Her husband, Richard, was white. Their union was prohibited by law.
The marriage could have collapsed under the hammer of Jim Crow. Instead, the Lovings' challenge of the law led to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 1967 that toppled bans on interracial marriages nationwide and opened the door for mixed race couples to marry without prosecution.
For Loving, a soft-spoken, gentle woman who eschewed the limelight, the issue was always simple: "I think marrying who you want is a right no man should have anything to do with," Loving said in 1967 segment on ABC News. "It's a God-given right."
Loving, 68, died of pneumonia Friday at her home in Central Point, Va., said her daughter, Peggy Fortune. Loving's story was turned into a 1996 Showtime movie, and her case resonates with supporters of same-sex marriage.
The case of Loving vs. Virginia took place against a legal landscape altered by the demands and victories of the civil rights movement.
Early on the morning of July 15, 1958, Richard and Mildred Loving awoke in their bed with three flashlights shining in their eyes. A voice behind the lights demanded, "What are you doing in bed with this lady?"
"I am his wife," Mildred answered. Richard pointed to their five week old Washington DC marriage license hanging on the wall.
The marriage license did not impress Sheriff R. Garnett Brooks. "That’s no good here," he informed the couple. The Caroline County sheriff, along with two deputies, who had entered the house through an unlocked door at 2:00 a.m., arrested Richard and Mildred Loving. The lawmen charged the couple with violating Virginia’s law prohibiting interracial marriage, Richard was white and Mildred was "colored."
The arrest and conviction of the young couple…Richard, 24 and Mildred, 18…is similar to the arrest four years earlier, of civil rights heroine, Rosa Parks. Whereas Rosa Parks refused to obey Montgomery’s ordinance requiring colored people to sit in the rear of city buses, Richard and Mildred Loving refused to obey Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law, prohibiting marriage between individuals classified as being of different races. Writing about the case in Emerge magazine, Victoria Valentine says the Lovings "didn’t start to make history, they just wished to live as husband and wife."