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Oliver W. Hill

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Information about Oliver W. Hill

Profile image of Oliver W. Hill

Profession

Category:
LawMakers
Occupation(s):
Civil Rights Lawyer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Brown, Green
Favorite Food:
None
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
When Day Is Done, Greet The Dawn And Not The Setting Sun.

Birthplace

Born:
5/1/1907
Birth Location:
Richmond, Virginia

Profession

Category:
LawMakers
Occupation(s):
Civil Rights Lawyer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Brown, Green
Favorite Food:
None
Favorite Time of Year:
Summer
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
When Day Is Done, Greet The Dawn And Not The Setting Sun.

Birthplace

Born:
5/1/1907
Birth Location:
Richmond
See how Oliver W. Hill is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Born Oliver White in Richmond, Virginia, on May 1, 1907, Oliver Hill’s legal career helped end the doctrine of “separate but equal.” Hill’s father left the family when he was still a baby, and when his mother remarried, he took on her new last name. While attending Howard University, his uncle, a lawyer, died, and his aunt gave Hill all of his old legal books. After reading them, Hill decided to become a lawyer and win back the rights that had been denied to so many. He graduated from Howard Law School in 1933, second in his class only to Thurgood Marshall.

Hill’s early legal career did not foreshadow his later successes. At one point, he even gave up his legal practice and worked as a waiter. He returned to Richmond, however, and has been practicing law there since 1939. The following year, he won his first civil rights case when the city of Norfolk, Virginia, was ordered to pay black teachers the same as white teachers. In 1951, Hill heard that the students at R.R. Moton High School in Farmville, Virginia, 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. the Board of Education. During these years, 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. He persevered, however, and today Hill and his partners have filed more civil rights cases in Virginia than were filed in any other Southern state.

Hill also broke the mold when he and several other Virginia lawyers formed the Old Dominion Bar Association in 1942, and when he successful ran for the city council of Richmond in 1948, becoming the first African American to do so since Reconstruction.

Hill was the recipient of numerous awards over the decades, including being awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on August 11, 1999. Students at the University of Virginia also honored Hill when they founded the Oliver W. Hill Black Pre-Law Association. Hill retired from his legal practice in 1998, and today a bronze bust of him is visible at the Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia.

Hill passed away on Sunday, August 5, 2007, at the age of 100.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Oliver W. Hill's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Oliver W. Hill lists his favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Oliver W. Hill talks about his maternal family history
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Oliver W. Hill describes his mother and moving to Roanoke, Virginia with her and his step-father as a child
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Oliver W. Hill talks about living with the Pentecost family in Roanoke, Virginia, pt. 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Oliver W. Hill talks about living with the Pentecost family in Roanoke, Virginia, pt. 2
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Oliver W. Hill describes his primer teacher at Gainsboro Elementary School in Roanoke, Virginia and his childhood love interests
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Oliver W. Hill talks about the newspapers and comic strips he liked as a child
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Oliver W. Hill talks about being a newspaper boy, his interactions with white children, and learning about the Civil War in school
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Oliver W. Hill talks about being in Oscar Micheaux's 1927 film, 'The House Behind the Cedars'
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Oliver W. Hill remembers a Christmas in Washington D.C. and Harrison School in Roanoke, Virginia
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Oliver W. Hill shares a memory from Harrison School in Roanoke, Virginia
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Oliver W. Hill talks about a man in Roanoke, Virginia called Bert Wade
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Oliver W. Hill recalls his decision to attend Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C. and segregation in Roanoke, Virginia
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Oliver W. Hill talks about Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C.
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Oliver W. Hill talks about Howard University School of Law in Washington, D.C. becoming a full-time law school in 1931
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Oliver W. Hill talks about studying with Thurgood Marshall and under Charles Hamilton Houston at Howard University School of Law
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Oliver W. Hill talks about the U.S. Supreme Court case New Negro Alliance v. Sanitary Grocery Co., 1938
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Oliver W. Hill describes studying for the Virginia Bar Exam with his future law partner, Samuel W. Tucker
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Oliver W. Hill talks about practicing law during the Great Depression and court cases dealing with racial discrimination in the 1930s
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Oliver W. Hill talks about losing Alston v. School Board of the City of Norfolk in 1939
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Oliver W. Hill describes bringing Alston v. School Board of the City of Norfolk before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in 1940, pt. 1
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Oliver W. Hill describes bringing Alston v. School Board of the City of Norfolk (1940) before the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, pt. 2
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Oliver W. Hill talks about forming Hill, Martin and Robinson law firm and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Oliver W. Hill talks about court cases Irene Morgan v. Commonwealth of Virginia (1946) and Chance v. Lambeth (1951)
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Oliver W. Hill talks about joining the U.S. Army during World War II and the Case of Odell Waller
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Oliver W. Hill recalls two school desegregation cases against Virginia school boards, pt. 1
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Oliver W. Hill recalls two school desegregation cases against Virginia school boards, pt. 2
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Oliver W. Hill talks about the show of support from African American parents for their children's education
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Oliver W. Hill describes the beginnings of Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County (1952)
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Oliver W. Hill talks about the five cases which formed Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954)
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Oliver W. Hill talks about the people involved in Bolling v. Sharpe (1954)
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Oliver W. Hill talks about Sweatt v. Painter (1950)
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Oliver W. Hill explains the connection between Briggs v. Elliott (1952) and Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954)
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Oliver W. Hill describes southern resistance to the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954) decision
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Oliver W. Hill talks about segregation at Chandler Junior High School in Richmond, Virginia in the 1960s
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Oliver W. Hill talks about the long history of African Americans' fight for civil rights
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Oliver W. Hill describes his plans to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, 1954
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Oliver W. Hill reflects upon his legacy
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Oliver W. Hill talks about the importance of understanding history
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Oliver W. Hill talks about the importance of equality
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Oliver W. Hill describes how he would like to be remembered