Saturday, May 24, 2008

Died: Mildred Loving

Mildred Loving, the wife in Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1 (1967), passed away on Friday 2 May 2008, at the age of 68. The Economist published an obituary:

The constitutional arguments had meant nothing to them. Their chief lawyer, Bernard Cohen, had based his case in the end on the equal-rights clause of the 14th amendment, and was keen that the Lovings should listen to him speak. But they did not attend the hearings or read the decision. Richard merely urged Mr Cohen, “Tell the court I love my wife.” For Mildred, all that mattered was being able to walk down the street, in view of everyone, with her husband's arm around her. It was very simple. If she had helped many others do the same, so much the better.

She had never been an activist, and never became one. When June 12th, the day of the ruling, was proclaimed “Loving Day” as an unofficial celebration of interracial couples—who still make up only 4% of marriages in America—she produced a statement, but she was never a public figure. She lived quietly in Caroline county, as before. Her widowhood was long, after Richard was killed in a car accident in 1975, but she never thought of replacing him. They loved each other.

Often in our field we will come across cases that may seem more like material for human interest stories on the local news, than for earth-shaking opinions from the United States Supreme Court. As Dean Burcham mentioned in his keynote address at graduation, the practice of law is about relationships. Keep this in mind in your practice, and let history take care of itself.

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