At 100, civil rights, “Brown” lawyer Oliver Hill dies

By The News Aug 07, 2007

Interestingly, Oliver Hill pointed to the 1954 Brown case as the linchpin to Mr. Luther King’s successful activism. Without it, he said “I doubt (the Rev. Martin Luther) King would have gotten to first base." It would have been nice to get Hill’s thoughts after the Supreme Court recently corrupted the 1954 ruling promoting racial integration in schools by saying the hope of Brown was to not factor in race in the organizing of students. The Associated Press reported:

“He was among the vanguard in seeking equal opportunity for all individuals, and he was steadfast in his commitment to effect change. He will be missed,” said L. Douglas Wilder, who in 1989 became the nation’s first elected black governor and was a confidant of Hill’s. Wilder is now Richmond’s mayor. In 1940, Hill won his first civil rights case in Virginia, one that required equal pay for black and white teachers. Eight years later, he was the first black elected to Richmond’s City Council since Reconstruction. A lawsuit argued by Hill in 1951 on behalf of students protesting deplorable conditions at their high school for blacks in Farmville became one of five cases decided under Brown. Those battles to end the Jim Crow era were dangerous ones for Hill and other civil rights leaders. Hill once received so many threats that he and his wife, Berensenia, would not allow their son to answer the telephone. Nor did his battle for civil rights bring him wealth. “We got very few fees for any of this,” he said in a 1992 interview in The Richmond News Leader. Hill never lost sight of the importance of the 1954 court ruling. Without it, he said in an interview in the Richmond Times-Dispatch this year, “I doubt (the Rev. Martin Luther) King would have gotten to first base.”