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Oliver W. Hill

7 March, 2011

Mr. Hill was born in Richmond, Va., just 12 years after the famous Homer Plessy sat down in a train car reserved for whites and was immediately arrested in New Orleans. Mr. Hill spent his childhood dealing with a legal and social system that condones segregated public transportation and and a public high school education for white children but not African Americans.

As a teenager, Mr. Hill moved to Washington, D.C. to attend the famous Dunbar High School and Howard University. After graduating from Howard University Law School, he devoted his career to securing first class citizenship for all Americans.

He served as a counsel in many of the most important civil rights cases that resulted in ending legal segregation based on race. In 1934, a group of little-known black lawyers began documenting the inequalities between white and black life in America. This group included Charles Hamilton Houston, Samuel W. Tucker, Thurgood Marshall, William Hastie, Spotswood W. Robinson, Martin A. Martin, and Mr. Hill. Mr Hill studied under Mr. Houston at Howard University, and was a classmate and close friend of future Supreme Court Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall. These men led one of the most important legal campaigns of the 20th century: the struggle to destroy Jim Crow. Hill’s work as lead attorney on the lawsuit Davis vs. County School Board of Prince Edward Country Virginia became one of the five cases consolidated and decided under Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1954 which ended legal segregation in the U.S.

The Hill papers include approximately 90 boxes of family, personal, and business correspondence, including affiliations with other organizations in and out of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Also included are photographs, home movies, and awards. After proper documentation and restoration, VSU anticipates the collection will reveal a treasure trove of research information. The unprocessed collection is currently unavailable to researchers.

Lucious Edwards, Jr. University Archivist
This biography originally appeared in the VSU Alumni magazine, vol. 10 no. 2, p. 8

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