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  Hill, Oliver W.
NameOliver W. Hill
Richmond, Virginia , United States
Born May 01, 1907
DiedAugust 05, 2007 (100 years)
ContributorThomas Walker
Last ModifedDavid
May 03, 2021 12:15am
Tags Black - Widowed - Army -
InfoElected to the Richmond City Council in 1948.

He lost re-election in 1950.

Oliver White Hill (born May 1, 1907) is best known as a civil rights attorney from Richmond, Virginia, United States. His work against racial discrimination helped end the doctrine of "separate but equal." He retired in 1998 after practicing law for almost 60 years. In October 2005, Virginia Governor Mark R. Warner dedicated a newly renovated building in Virginia's Capitol Square in his honor. The Oliver W. Hill Building is the first state-owned building to be named for an African American Virginian.

Oliver White was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1907. His parents split while he was still a baby, and he took on his stepfather's last name. The Hill family moved to Roanoke and then to Washington, D.C., where he graduated from Dunbar High School.

Oliver White Hill earned his undergraduate degree from Howard University and graduated from Howard University's School of Law in 1933. In law school, Hill was a classmate, rival, and close friend of future Supreme Court Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall. He graduated second in his class only to Marshall.

Hill began practicing law in Richmond in 1939. In 1940, working with fellow attorneys Thurgood Marshall, William H. Hastie, and Leon A. Ranson, Hill won his first civil rights case. The decision in Alston v. School Board of Norfolk, Va., gained pay equity for black teachers. In 1943, Hill joined the United States Army, and served in the European Theatre of World War II.

Returning to his law practice at the end of World War II, he won the right for equal transportation for school children in the Virginia Supreme Court. In 1949, he became the first African American on the City Council of Richmond since Reconstruction in the late 19th century.

In the early 1950s, Hill was co-counsel with Spotswood W. Robinson III in dozens of civil rights lawsuits around Virginia. In 1951, he took up the cause of the African American students at the segregated R.R. Moton High School in Farmville who had walked out of their dilapidated school. The subsequent lawsuit, Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County later became one of the five cases decided under Brown v. Board of Education before the Supreme Court of the United States in 1954.

During the 1940s and 1950s, Hill's home life was under constant threat. He did not allow his son to answer the telephone because so many threats were coming in, and a cross was burned on his lawn. As Hill and his clients continued to wage legal battles against massive resistance and tuition grant support of segregation academies, Virginia's policy to avoid desegregation under the Byrd Organization, was dropped by Virginia Governor James Lindsay Almond, Jr. in 1959.

Hill continued civil rights litigation until he retired in 1998.

Hill's accomplishments have earned many awards and citations including the 1959 "Lawyer of the Year Award" from the National Bar Association, the "Simple Justice Award" from the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in 1986 and the American Bar Association "Justice Thurgood Marshall Award" in 1993. President of the United States Bill Clinton awarded Hill the "Presidential Medal of Freedom" in 1999. Students at the University of Virginia also honored Hill when they founded the Oliver W. Hill Black Pre-Law Association.

In 2000, he received the American Bar Association Medal, and the National Bar Association "Hero of the Law" award. In September 2000, he and other NAACP Legal Defense Fund lawyers were honored with the "Harvard Medal of Freedom" for their role in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. In 2005 he was awarded the Spingarn Medal. The NAACP's highest honor. He's also a renowned member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc.

In Richmond, a bronze bust of him is visible at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia. The city's the Oliver Hill Courts Building was named for him.

In October 2005, Virginia Governor Mark R. Warner dedicated a newly renovated building in Virginia's Capitol Square in his honor. The Oliver W. Hill Building is the first state-owned building as well as the first in Virginia's Capitol Square to be named for an African American. "Oliver W. Hill has worked tirelessly to end the injustice of segregation, and today we honor his lifetime of contributions to our commonwealth and our nation" said Governor Warner. "It's my hope that the generations of Virginians and Americans who come after us and visit this Square will think that the history we reflect in our monuments is as rich and diverse as our people, and that the heroes that this generation has chosen to honor bring new and vital lessons."

Also in Capitol Square, a Civil Rights Memorial will be commissioned and placed by 2007. The memorial will honor the roles Virginians have played in the nation's struggle for civil rights for all.

Oliver Hill's autobiography: The Big Bang: Brown v. Board of Education, The Autobiography of Oliver W. Hill, Sr. edited by Professor Jonathan K. Stubbs, was published in 2000.





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Aug 05, 2007 11:00am Obituary Civil Rights Attorney Hill Dies at 100  Article Thomas Walker 

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