Oliver White Hill

Oliver White Hill (1907-2007), Richmond
Attorney and civil rights leader

Oliver White Hill (1907-2007) was born in Richmond and began school in Roanoke but moved to Washington, D.C., to complete his education because there was no high school for African Americans in Roanoke. He graduated from the Howard University School of Law and became one of the most active and successful of Virginia's civil rights attorneys, filing and winning law suits against segregation and discrimination from before World War II until the end of the twentieth century. In 1951, students in Prince Edward County persuaded him to challenge mandatory racial segregation in the state's public schools. Hill served as counsel in the United States Supreme Court in the Virginia suit that was combined with others in the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision declaring mandatory racial segregation unconstitutional, even under the guise of separate-but-equal.

Hill was the most distinguished and successful of the many African American attorneys who achieved major breakthroughs in the civil rights movement in Virginia. In large part because of attorneys like Hill, the civil rights movement in Virginia was known for its many important legal victories rather than for violence and recrimination. In recognition of his contributions to the legal profession and the nation, President Bill Clinton awarded Hill the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1999. By the time that he died at age 100, Hill had become one of the most respected and revered Virginians of the twentieth century.

Oliver White Hill
Images courtesy of Oliver Hill family

SEE Hill's image, along with Spottswood Robinson, III, on the Civil Rights Memorial located on Virginia's Capitol Square.

LEARN about Virginia's response to the Brown decision using the resources in the Library of Virginia's online exhibition "Brown v. Board of Education: Virginia Responds."

LEARN more about the case Brown v. Board of Education, including a summary list of the five cases that were combined and heard before the U. S. Supreme Court in 1954.

READ Julian Bond's interview with Oliver Hill for the Virginia Quarterly Review in which Hill discusses his early life, his career, and his legacy.

WATCH an interview with Oliver Hill, conducted as a part of the Virginia Civil Rights Movement Video Initiative and housed at Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries Digital Collection's "Voices of Freedom" Collection.