Mildred Loving


RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Mildred Loving, a black woman whose challenge to Virginia's ban on interracial marriage led to a landmark Supreme Court ruling striking down such laws nationwide, has died, her daughter said Monday.

Peggy Fortune said Loving, 68, died Friday at her home in rural Milford. She did not disclose the cause of death.

"I want (people) to remember her as being strong and brave yet humble - and believed in love," Fortune told The Associated Press.

Loving and her white husband, Richard, changed history in 1967 when the U.S. Supreme Court upheld their right to marry. The ruling struck down laws banning racially mixed marriages in at least 17 states.

"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," the court ruled in a unanimous decision.

Her husband died in 1975. Shy and soft-spoken, Loving shunned publicity and in a rare interview with The Associated Press last June, insisted she never wanted to be a hero - just a bride.

"It wasn't my doing," Loving said. "It was God's work."

Mildred Jeter was 11 when she and 17-year-old Richard began courting, according to Phyl Newbeck, a Vermont author who detailed the case in the 2004 book, "Virginia Hasn't Always Been for Lovers."

She became pregnant a few years later, she and Loving got married in Washington in 1958, when she was 18. Mildred told the AP she didn't realize it was illegal.

"I think my husband knew," Mildred said. "I think he thought (if) we were married, they couldn't bother us."

But they were arrested a few weeks after they returned to Central Point, their hometown in rural Caroline County north of Richmond. They pleaded guilty to charges of "cohabiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth," according to their indictments.

They avoided jail time by agreeing to leave Virginia - the only home they'd known - for 25 years. They moved to Washington for several years, then launched a legal challenge by writing to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who referred the case to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Attorneys later said the case came at the perfect time - just as lawmakers passed the Civil Rights Act, and as across the South, blacks were defying Jim Crow's hold.

"The law that threatened the Lovings with a year in jail was a vestige of a hateful, discriminatory past that could not stand in the face of the Lovings' quiet dignity," said Steven Shapiro, national legal director for the ACLU.

"We loved each other and got married," she told The Washington Evening Star in 1965, when the case was pending. "We are not marrying the state. The law should allow a person to marry anyone he wants."

After the Supreme Court ruled, the couple returned to Virginia, where they lived with their children, Donald, Peggy and Sidney. Each June 12, the anniversary of the ruling, Loving Day events around the country mark the advances of mixed-race couples.

Richard Loving died in a car accident that also injured his wife. "They said I had to leave the state once, and I left with my wife," he told the Star in 1965. "If necessary, I will leave Virginia again with my wife, but I am not going to divorce her."

Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press

Guest Book

Not sure what to say?

Mrs. Loving, I do not know you personally, but you have impacted my life in so many ways. Everything you and your husband did to strike down miscegenation laws in America has had a profound impact on my life as well as many others. My fiancé and I are an interracial couple as well and to celebrate the Supreme Court decision in the Loving v Virginia case, we have decided to get married on the 51st anniversary. In just a few short days we will be married, but I wanted to thank you beforehand...

The Lovings' fight for justice and humanity did not go in vain. People have used God's name for years to separate people from their loved ones and there is no hate in Christ. They are both heroes that paved the way for so many. Rest on! You will never be forgotten!!

Vickie Baskin
Winona, Mississippi
August 18, 2019

You completed your journey, and finished your assignment. Rest in Him now sweet angel.....

May you continue to rest in heaven

Mrs. Loving, thank you so much for your struggles and your strength. You touched me so much with your gentle spirit and honest words. I so wish I could have known you and Mr. Loving in life. Such a beautiful and sweet couple. Your love brought hope to so many.

Just watched the movie Loving it touched my heart! Wish I could have had the good fortune to have known you❤

R.I.P Love u and Richard would love to talk to your sons they can call me sometime 573-719-0711

Just finished watching the movie God Bless them unconditional love brought me to tears

RIH Mr.and Mrs. Richard Loving....My Great grandparents were Jeters, My grand father was a Jeter Irish and Grandmom Indian...they went through the exact same thing as you guys....i just know we are some kind of relation....Thanks for your strength!❤