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Mildred Loving

AKA Mildred Delores Jeter

Born: 22-Jun-1939
Birthplace: Central Point, VA
Died: 2-May-2008
Location of death: Central Point, VA
Cause of death: Pneumonia
Remains: Buried, St. Stephens Baptist Church Cemetery, Central Point, VA

Gender: Female
Religion: Baptist
Race or Ethnicity: Multiracial
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Activist

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Interracial marriage

Mildred Jeter fell in love as a teenager and became pregnant at 18, a common problem complicated greatly in 1958 by color -- she was black, her boyfriend Richard Loving was white, and they lived in Virginia, where the Racial Integrity Act made interracial marriage illegal. So they married in Washington, DC, where their union was legal, then returned to Virginia and set up a home together. Within weeks, sheriff's deputies raided their home in the middle of the night, bursting into their bedroom and accusing them of illegal sexual activity. When they pointed to their framed marriage license they were arrested, jailed, and charged with violating two sections of the law -- it was a felony for blacks and whites to marry, and a second felony to cross the state line to cross that racial line.

The Lovings were convicted in a Virginia courtroom, where Judge Leon Bazile declared, "Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix." Richard and Mildred Loving were each sentenced to a year in prison, with the sentence suspended on condition that they leave Virginia and agree not to return for at least 25 years. The judge stipulated that they could return to Virginia to visit their families, so long as they traveled and lodged separately.

The Lovings fled to Washington, DC, but after passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964, they wrote to US Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, asking him to intervene in their case. Kennedy suggested that they should contact the American Civil Liberties Union, and the ACLU provided lawyers who appealed the matter to the US Supreme Court as a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The state's lawyers argued that its anti-miscegenation law was a matter of "public health interests", no different than laws banning incest, polygamy, and marriages between retarded people, but the Supreme Court did not concur. The Lovings' right to marry was upheld on 12 June 1967, with a unanimous ruling that there "can be no doubt that restricting the freedom to marry solely because of racial classifications violates the central meaning of the equal protection clause." Loving v. Virginia struck down miscegenation laws in 17 states, and the Lovings promptly returned to Virginia, where they lived for the rest of their lives.

Richard Loving was killed by a drunk driver in 1975, and Mildred Loving never remarried. She passed away in 2008, a respected voice of the civil rights movement though she always described herself as "not a political person". She also spoke out for the rights of gay couples to marry, stating in 2007 that "I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry." Mrs Loving was of mixed racial heritage herself, African-American in appearance but with Native American ancestry on both sides of her family. In the 1996 film Mr. & Mrs. Loving, she was played by Lela Rochon.

Husband: Richard Perry Loving (b. 29-Oct-1933, m. 2-Jun-1958, d. 29-Jun-1975, two sons, one daughter)

    Assisted by the ACLU
    Cherokee Ancestry (paternal)
    Rappahannock Ancestry (maternal)
    Risk Factors: Arthritis

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