On June 14th, 1959, Mildred and Richard Loving were forcefully awakened in the middle of the night in their bedroom by a sheriff. Their crime: violating Virginia’s miscegenation laws. At this location in the early 1960s, Mildred and Richard Loving brought suit against the common wealth of Virginia, and lost their case before Judge Balize. In his opinion, Judge Balize opinion stated that the Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents.... The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix. The Lovings would appeal and the case would eventually find itself in the Supreme Court where it is known as the landmark case Loving vs. Virginia (1967). The story of the Lovings and their court fight is the subject of a film that will be released in November of 2016 entitled Loving which stars Joel Edgerton and Ruth Negga.
Richard Loving was born October 29, 1933, Mildred Delores
Jeter on June 22, 1939. The two grew up and lived as neighbors in Caroline
County, Virginia, where they fell in love. Richard was white, Mildred was of
African American and Native American descent. They saw the color of the others
skin, but this did not make them love one another less. The Racial Integrity Act of 1924 made
interracial marriage illegal in the Commonwealth of Virginia, so Mildred and
Richard married on June 2, 1958 in Washington, D.C.
After returning home to Caroline County, Richard and Mildred
were arrested on July 14th in their home by Caroline Sheriff Garnett Brooks and
two deputies. They were charged with unlawful cohabitation. The case went to Caroline
County, Virginia’s Circuit Court which Judge Leon Bazile presided. On January
6, 1959, the Lovings were prosecuted and convicted of violating the state's
anti-miscegenation law. At that time, Virginia's miscegenation laws
banned marriage between blacks and whites. In the conclusion of this case,
Judge Balize explained that Almighty God created the races white, black,
yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents.... The fact
that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to
mix. He sentenced the Lovings to a year in prison, to be suspended if the
couple agreed to leave the state and not return for the next 25 years. Richard
and Mildred left Virginia. However, after some time away, they grew to miss their
family back in Virginia. Inspired by the civil rights movement, Mildred Loving
wrote to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy in 1963 for help. Kennedy referred
the couple to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), where Attorneys Philip
J. Hirschkop and Bernard S. Cohen were assigned to the case.
The case came after nearly 300 years of legislation in
Virginia regulating interracial marriage and carefully defining which citizens
could legally claim to be white. Two U.S. Supreme Court cases, Pace v. Alabama
(1883) and Maynard v. Hill (1888), upheld the constitutionality of such laws. The
state of Virginia, and sixteen others who had similar laws on the books at the
time, looked at these two cases to validate such miscegenation
laws. And in 1924, the Act to Preserve Racial Integrity banned interracial
marriage in Virginia while defining a white person as someone who had no
discernible nonwhite ancestry.
In a unanimous (9-0) decision, the Supreme Court held that
distinctions drawn according to race were generally odious to a free
people and were subject to the most rigid scrutiny under the
Equal Protection Clause. Therefore, the Virginia law, the Court found, had no
legitimate purpose independent of invidious racial discrimination.
The Court rejected the state's argument that the statute was legitimate because
it applied equally to both blacks and whites. The Court also held that the
Virginia law violated the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Under our Constitution, wrote Chief Justice Earl Warren in the
opinion for the case, the fundamental freedom to marry, or not marry, a
person of another race resides with the individual, and cannot be infringed by
The result of this case saw an end on June 12, 1967 ended miscegenation
laws in the United States and greater civil liberties and rights bestowed to
citizens as they rightfully deserve. Life goes on outside of the courtroom, and
another result of this case meant that Richard and Mildred Loving could return
home, to Caroline Country and their family of three children.
Tragedy struck on June 29th, 1975, when a drunk
driver hit their vehicle. Mildred lost her right eye, and Richard lost his
life. Mildred continued to live in Caroline County until she died of pneumonia
on May 2, 2008. This story of hope, perseverance, and love does not end there. Numerous
books and two films, Mr. & Mrs. Loving in 1996 and The Loving story in
2012, have been made focusing on this story. However, according to Mildred
Loving, not much of it (Mr. & Mrs. Loving) was very true. The only part
of it right was I had three children. In addition, June 12th is now
celebrated all over the country as Loving Day. When telling of their parents
stories now, without fail their three children describe their parents as never
seeing themselves as heroes. Instead, they describe their actions and memories
as courageous and loving.
The importance of this case can not be understated. However, a somber fact about it's importance and recognition of such is not fully expressed. Loving vs. Virginia was added to a plaque within the courthouse with other local important figures, events, and court cases as deemed by the court. That really is it insofar as a historical marker. Other than the plaque, only the courthouse itself could be looked at as a marker regarding this case for historical reference.