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Mildred Loving was a Civil Rights activist in the 1960s. She and her husband successfully defeated Virginia's ban on interracial marriage.
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The Civil Rights movement was blossoming into real change in America, and with a sense, perhaps, that this new era might lead the Lovings back to their old life in Virginia, Mildred wrote Attorney General Robert Kennedy to ask for his assistance.
Kennedy wrote back and referred the Lovings to the American Civil Liberties Union (A.C.L.U.), which took on the couple as clients. The A.C.L.U.'s two lawyers for the couple,
Bernard S. Cohen and Philip J. Hirschkop, appealed the Lovings' case to the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals. For Richard Loving, the argument to be made was a simple one: "Tell the court I love my wife, and it is just unfair that I can't live with her in Virginia." When that court upheld the original ruling, the case went to the United States Supreme Court.
On June 12, 1967, the high court agreed, unanimously coming down in favor of the Lovings, striking down Virginia's law and allowing and the couple to return home. "I feel free," Richard is reported to have said after the ruling.
Richard and Mildred soon moved back to Virginia, returning to Caroline County, where they built a home and raised their kids. Tragically, Richard was killed in an automobile accident in 1975, when his car was struck by another vehicle operated by a drunk driver. Mildred, who was also in the car, lost sight in her right eye.
In the years following her high-profile court battle, Mildred Loving did her best to put the past behind her, refusing most interview requests to talk about the case. A 1996 Showtime movie sparked renewed interest in the Lovings' life, as did a 2004 book, but Mildred continued to shy away from the attention.
"What happened, we really didn't intend for it to happen," she said in a 1992 interview. "What we wanted, we wanted to come home."
Still, there's little doubt about Mildred and Richard's legacy. There's an unofficial holiday celebrating their triumph and multiculturalism, called Loving Day (June 12). More importantly, the prohibition against mixed race marriages has been stripped out of every state constitution.
Mildred Loving passed away from pneumonia on May 2, 2008, at the age of 68.
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