Mildred Jeter Loving, 68, a modest homemaker died of pneumonia Friday at her home in Milford, Va. She would have celebrated her 50th wedding anniversary in July, which seemd a dim and unlikely prospect when as a 17 year old bride she drove 90 miles north to the District of Washington to marry 23 year old construction worker Richard Loving.
Pretty, young and already pregnant with the first of her 3 children she was also black, her loving husband was white.
At 2 am July 1958, alerted by outraged citizens of Central Point. Va. Caroline County Sheriff R. Garnett Brooks rousted them from their bed ... In the Internatuional Herald Tribune in June last year he remembered the event ..."Now 84, Garnett Brooks vividly recalls bursting into the Lovings' home at 2 a.m., rousing the couple out of their sleep and hauling them off to face the law. Word of their marriage — nobody's sure who complained — had reached the commonwealth's attorney.
"He told me to go and check on them and if they are (married) arrest them," said Brooks, who insists the case wasn't about race, but about illegal cohabitation.
"I told him I'd be glad to do it."
AS a rsult he had them arraigned before Caroline County Circuit Court Judge Leon M. Bazile charged with unlawful cohabitation. Justice was swift, certain and sure Judge Bazile sentenced them to a year's imprisonment, to be suspended if they left the state for the next 25 years.
For good measure he added a few words of god fearing biblical bigotry and a dodgy sense of geography ,
"Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and heTechnically the Lovings were convicted of violating § 20-58 of the Virginia Code:
placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his
arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he
separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix,"
"Leaving State to evade law. -- If any white person and colored person shall go out of this State, for the purpose of being married, and with the intention of returning, and be married out of it, and afterwards return to and reside in it, cohabiting as man and wife, they shall be punished as provided in § 20-59, and the marriage shall be governed by the same law as if it had been solemnized in this State. The fact of their cohabitation here as man and wife shall be evidence of their marriage."
Section 20-59, which defines the penalty for miscegenation, provides:
"Punishment for marriage. -- If any white person intermarry with a colored person, or any colored person intermarry with a white person, he shall be guilty of a felony and shall be punished by confinement in the penitentiary for not less than one nor more than five years."
Other central provisions in the Virginia statutory scheme were § 20-57, which automatically voided all marriages between "a white person and a colored person" without any judicial proceeding, and §§ 20-54 and 1-14 which, respectively, define "white persons" and "colored persons and Indians" for purposes of the statutory prohibitions.
The Lovings moved to Washington in 1959 and lived with one of Mildred's cousins on Neale Street NE.
Later in 1964 whilst visiting their mother, they were arrested again for travelling together.
This was too much for Mildred and she wrote to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy to find out if the 1964 Civil Rights legislation would allow the couple to travel freely. The result was that Bernard S. Cohen, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) with fellow attorney Philip J. Hirschkop, took the case to the high court that their civil rights under the Equal Protection and Due Process Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment had been violarted. Which they did under the wonderfully titled case case Loving v. Virginia.
Eventually after much legal toil on June 12, 1967, (celebrated by some as "Loving Day") the unanimous decision of the U.S. Supreme Court was declared by Chief Justice Warren (who later fucked up big style over the Attornet generl's brother's assassination) : "There is patently no legitimate overriding purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination which justifies this classification. The fact that Virginia prohibits only interracial marriages involving white persons demonstrates that the racial classifications must stand on their own justification, as measures designed to maintain White Supremacy. . . . There can be no doubt that restricting the freedom to marry solely because of racial classifications violates the central meaning of the Equal Protection Clause."
Virginia was at that time one of 16 States which prohibit and punish marriages on the basis of racial classifications and it was 13 years after Brown v. Board of Education ended segregated schools.
Mildred and Richard returned to Caroline County, where they both were born. He built their house, and the couple settled there. Richard Loving was killed in 1975 when a drunk driver struck their car. Mildred Loving, who was also in the car, lost her right eye in the collision.
On their return the Loving's church, St. Stephens Baptist Church in Bowling Green, Va., gave her a certificate recognizing the trailblazing lawsuit.
"The preacher at my church classified me with Rosa Parks," she told The Washington Post in 1992. "I don't feel like that. Not at all. What happened, we really didn't intend for it to happen. What we wanted, we wanted to come home."
A 1996 Showtime movie about the case, "Mr. and Mrs. Loving," told their story. "None of it was very true," she said in 2007. "The only part of it right was I had three children."
Phyl Newbeck, a Vermont lawyer, saw the movie and then wrote the book, "Virginia Hasn't Always Been for Lovers," which was published in 2004.
On the 40th Anniversary of the case Mildred released a statement which can be read here.
It seems remarkable that lawyers for the State of Virginia argued in 1964 on the basis of the Supreme Court of Appeals of Virginia 1955 (2 years after the structure of DNA was elucidated by Watson and Crick and Queen Elizabeth II was crowned) decision in Naim v. Naim as stating the reasons supporting the validity of these laws. In Naim, the state court concluded that the State's legitimate purposes were "to preserve the racial integrity of its citizens," and to prevent "the corruption of blood," "a mongrel breed of citizens," and "the obliteration of racial pride," obviously an endorsement of the doctrine of White Supremacy. The court also reasoned that marriage has traditionally been subject to state regulation without federal intervention, and, consequently, the regulation of marriage should be left to exclusive state control by the Tenth Amendment.
There is a website that is dedicated to Loving Day
..... The stone fidelity
They hardly meant has come to be
Their final blazon, and to prove
Our almost-instinct almost true:
What will survive of us is love.