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Commending Oliver White Hill, Sr.

Agreed to by the Senate, February 21, 2003

WHEREAS, Oliver White Hill, Sr. was born in Richmond, Virginia, in 1907, under the shadow of Plessy v. Ferguson, and educated in the public schools of Virginia and Washington, D.C.; and

WHEREAS, while an undergraduate student at Howard University, he inherited his uncle's law books and focused his attention on the Constitution and the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments; and

WHEREAS, he internalized the truth “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness"; and

WHEREAS, realizing that African Americans were not privileged to these rights, he determined that he would become a lawyer and end legalized segregation; and

WHEREAS, under the tutelage of Charles Hamilton Houston, Dean of Howard Law School and the architect of the legal strategy in Brown v. Board of Education, Oliver White Hill, Sr. pursued his dream and graduated from Howard Law School in 1933, second in his class behind his friend, Thurgood Marshall; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Hill has practiced law since 1934, litigating civil rights cases on behalf of African Americans and participating in legal struggles to ensure equal protection of the law for all persons; and

WHEREAS, his landmark cases involved the desegregation of public transit systems, free bus transportation for African-American students, the right of African-American citizens to serve on juries and participate in primary elections, and the desegregation of public assembly and recreational facilities; and

WHEREAS, during his 20-year tenure as Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Virginia Chapter (NAACP), he and a team of 13 lawyers filed more civil rights cases in Virginia than were filed in any other southern state; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Hill's most famous case, Davis v. Prince Edward County Schools, became part of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision; and

WHEREAS, Mr. Hill founded the Old Dominion Bar Association in Virginia in 1942, became the first African American elected to Richmond City Council since Reconstruction in 1948, and organized an observance in 1969 to commemorate the 19 Africans who landed at Jamestown 350 years earlier; and

WHEREAS, this venerable civil rights attorney and advocate is a member of many local, state, and national organizations and has received many citations and awards, including the establishment of the Oliver W. Hill Black Pre-Law Association at the University of Virginia in 1983, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1999, the American Bar Association Medal in 2000, and Outstanding Virginian of the Year in 2003; and

WHEREAS, at age 91, he retired from his Richmond law firm, Hill, Tucker and Marsh, after practicing law for nearly 60 years; and

WHEREAS, the President of the United States stated, when awarding Mr. Hill the Presidential Medal of Freedom, "Oliver Hill has devoted his life to building a more just and inclusive America . . . For his unyielding efforts to improve the lives of his fellow Americans and his unwavering dedication to justice for all, we salute him"; and

WHEREAS, throughout his long and rich life, Oliver White Hill, Sr. has challenged the laws of the land and the conscience of the nation to hasten the day when this country's creed, "that all men are created equal," will become more than egalitarian rhetoric; and

WHEREAS, the Commonwealth is indebted to Oliver White Hill, Sr. for his love of the law, personal sacrifice, and steadfast commitment to make equality and justice a reality for all Americans; now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED by the Senate of Virginia, That Oliver White Hill, Sr., a native son, hereby be commended as an icon of the civil rights movement, a distinguished trial lawyer, and a courageous civil rights leader; and, be it

RESOLVED FURTHER, That the Clerk of the Senate prepare a copy of this resolution for presentation to Oliver White Hill, Sr. as an expression of the Senate's respect and gratitude for his unyielding efforts to improve the lives of others and his unwavering dedication to justice for all.

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