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Richard Loving – Early Life, Marriage With Mildred, Court Case, Death


Nowadays in many parts of the world, people generally have the freedom to marry the one they love irrespective of the colour, race, and gender of the person concerned. But while these love stories can have their happy endings owing to the changed time, these changes have been hard-earned. The story of ‘Lovings’ is one such story of a couple whose fight for their love set a precedent for interracial marriages getting legality over the years in all parts of America. The story of Mr. And Mrs. Richard Loving, being a white man who fell in love in love with Mildred Jeter, a woman of color, is a reason for the happy endings of many other love stories. The fight they had to undergo for gaining legal rights as a married interracial couple is what makes their story not only an exemplary one but a story for the ages to remember and honor.

 

Early life

Richard-Loving

This story has its beginning in the suburban region of Caroline County,  Virginia, during the years of World War II. At that time, many states of America, including Virginia had strict laws against interracial relationships. The rural Caroline county, however, was not very particular about racial differences and allowed free racial mingling to a certain extent.

Richard Perry Loving was brought up in this atmosphere of Caroline County and was born on 29 October 1933 to a white couple, Lola and Twillie Loving. From a very young age, Richard helped his father in the farms and later in his life became a construction worker. He was also fond of drag car racing. Richard’s life took a turn when he fell in love with a girl of color, Mildred Jeter unknowing to them at the time that their journey from love to marriage would end up being a revolutionary one. Richard and Mildred had two kids together, Donald and Peggy Loving and they also raised Mildred’s son from her previous relationship, Sydney Jeter as their own.

 

His Interracial Marriage With Mildred Delores Jeter

Mildred-Loving

Since there was no strict discrimination between blacks and whites in the region of rural Caroline County, Richard Loving and his family had friends who were both coloured as well as black. The Jeters, Theoliver and Musiel Jeter were family friends of the Lovings. Richard was 17 years old when he met 11-year-old Mildred Jeter during the 1950s. Their friendship which blossomed over the years eventually turned into a romantic affair. But they were not in an ongoing relationship throughout, instead, Mildred even had a son from her other relationship in 1957, who was raised by Richard and Mildred together and was the eldest of the three kids they had. Later when Mildred got pregnant with her second and Richard’s first biological son, that is when they both decided to get married and settle down together.

But the walk to the aisle was not an easy one for the couple. Mildred though did not have any black ancestry and was actually a native American, her birth certificate stated that both she and her parents were coloured. While Richard was recognized as a white man before the law. And hence their marriage was illegal in Virginia and in many other states of America because of certain laws that considered miscegenation as a crime and a punishable offense.

The Lovings tried to avoid the ‘Racial Integrity Act of 1924’ of Virginia and planned to get married in Washington DC, the capital where no such restricting laws were applicable. They got their marriage license in Washington and got married there on June 2nd, 1958. Then they came back to Virginia with the marriage license and expected to be at peace but it could not last long. On July 11th, 1958 approximately one month later, police invaded their privacy by entering their house at two in the morning and arrested them under section 20-59, which criminalized miscegenation. The Lovings referred to the marriage license to which were told by the police that it was not valid in Virginia as under section 20-58, they were not allowed to marry in some other state and return back to Virginia. Hence the couple got arrested. Richard got out on bail after one night but Mildred had to stay in the cell for three more nights.



The Case of Loving v. Virginia

The Case of Loving v. Virginia

After their arrest, the case was held in the caroline county court on 6 Jan 1959. The judge who took up their case, Leon M. Bazile declared them guilty for violating Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act under sections 20-58 and 20-59 for living together as a married couple would, with kids. As a result of which they were punished with detention in the form of one-year imprisonment but got their detention cut short on the condition that they leave Virginia for twenty-five years. And accordingly, Richard and Mildred left the state and moved to a district in Columbia. They lived there for five years. But owing to the difficulties they were facing in adjusting to city life in addition to being financially unstable and not being able to travel to Virginia to see their families, they decided on certain measures to change their situation. The ongoing Civil Rights Movement worked as a spark of motivation for the couple. So they wrote to the then head of United States Department of Justice, Robert F. Kennedy, who referred them to A.C.L.U, the American Civil Liberties Union. From there, two volunteers of ACLU took up the Lovings’ case, Bernard Cohen and Philip Hischkop.

These two attorneys filed a case in the Virginia Caroline County Circuit court to legally cancel the previous judgment given to the Lovings. But for no response was given from the court for almost a year, they took up the case to the district court of East Virginia. To this, the court judge at the county, Leon M. Bazile wrote that God himself has created racial differences and that this suggested that God did not want people from different races to mix.

The district court also delayed a decision on the Loving v. Virginia case and sent it to the federal class-action case on Jan 22, 1965. After this, the Lovings took up the case to the Virginia Supreme- court and questioned upon the constitutionality of the decision given in county court, on the basis of ‘Equal Protection Clause’. But it was dismissed by the then chief justice of Virginia Supreme court, Harry L. Carrio by stating that both white and coloured spouse got equal punishment and hence no violation of equal protection clause has undertaken. And that they did not consider anti-miscegenation laws as unconstitutional.

 

 

The Lovings then upheld their case in the U.S supreme-court with the support of ACLU attorneys. The couple themselves did not attend the legal court sittings instead their lawyers Cohen and Hischkop took up their side of arguments. Cohen put forward the case of Lovings’ and many other interracial couples’ and asserted that they deserved the protection of their rights and privacy as a couple just like any other married couple. Hischkop presented that anti-miscegenation law had been a cause of creating discrimination between blacks and whites since colonial times and it only considers the integrity of whites and denounces negros and that these laws simply aim to never let the blacks climb up to equal levels with whites.

June 12, 1967, was a historic day for not only Richard and Mildred Lovings but also then unknown to them, for many interracial couples to come. The U.S. supreme-court gave the decision in favor of the Lovings and stated that discrimination on the basis of race is by no means constitutional. And every individual has full right to love and marry the one they want, without any interference of state laws.

 

The revolutionary effects of this case

 

The Lovings got the freedom to openly live in Virginia as a married couple with three children. The success of this case was a huge accomplishment and inspiration for the civil rights activists to look up to.

This case and the unbiased supreme court decision made a major impact on thoughts of people all around in the U.S., this caused sixteen more states of the U.S. to remove the laws banning interracial marriages. The number of interracial marriages increased after this case.

This case also gave way to some major and much-needed discussions on the freedom of same-sex marriage. Many cases arose highlighting this issue after the Lovings’ case as the court gave the verdict that every individual has the right to choose the one they marry without any state laws interrupting them. Hence homosexual marriage rights issues saw itself becoming a major movement from thereon.

 

 

Death and Remembrance 

 

After a long struggle, Richard and Mildred Loving were finally at peace and started living a happy life in Virginia with their three kids. They were finally leading their dream life but it could not last forever. Just eight years after the decision, on June 29, 1975, Richard and Mildred were hit by a fatal car accident that took away Richard’s life. Mildred lost the eyesight of her right eye in the accident. Mildred died on May 2nd, 2008. Donald Loving preceded his mother and died in 2000 and Sydney died two years after his mother in 2010. Peggy Loving is the only living child of the Lovings in the current date.

But Lovings and their epic love story will always be alive in the hearts and minds of people. The date of this great decision, 12th June is celebrated as The Loving Day in their memorial as a celebration for all interracial marriages.

Peter Wallenstein has shared their story in his book ‘Race, Sex and the Freedom to Marry’. There are a number of films and documentaries also based on this monumental love story. MR. AND MRS. LOVING (1996) was the first, though Mildred remarked that not much of this film was true.

HBO also released a documentary about them with the name ‘THE LOVING STORY’ (2011)Then released the film ‘LOVING’ (2016), which is very much of true documentation of the Loving v. Virginia case and it breaths in life to the memories of Richard and Mildred Loving.

This is how the life of an ordinary countryman and his love became an epic tale that helped in changing the flow of destiny for many other couples and their love stories. 

 

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