In Memoriam

Mildred Loving (1939-2008)

Mildred Jeter Loving, the black woman who refused to accept the Virginia law prohibiting interracial marriage and took the issue to the Supreme Court, has died from pneumonia at her home in Central Point, Virginia. She was 68 years old.

The families of Mildred Jeter and Richard Loving lived in Caroline County, Virginia. The couple met while in high school, fell in love, and Mildred became pregnant. Due to a law enacted in 1662 banning interracial marriages in Virginia, the couple were obliged to drive to Washington, D.C., to get married.

One night a few months later, police burst into their bedroom and arrested the couple for violating Virginia’s ban on interracial marriages. The Lovings pleaded guilty. In a plea bargain deal, the couple avoided prison by agreeing to leave the state.

In 1963 Mildred Loving, inspired by the early successes of the civil rights movement, decided to file a lawsuit seeking to overturn the ban on interracial marriage that still prevailed in Virginia and 15 other states.

The case was finally decided in the Lovings’ favor by a unanimous Supreme Court in 1967. Richard Loving died in an automobile accident in 1975.

Today there are more than 4 million interracial marriages in the United States.

Luther Porter Jackson Jr. (1925-2008)

Luther Porter Jackson Jr., the first black faculty member at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, has died of Parkinson’s disease at a hospital in the Bronx, New York. He was 83 years old.

Jackson was a native of Chicago but was raised in Virginia. His father, a close associate of Carter G. Woodson, was the chair of the history department at historically black Virginia State University. After serving in the Pacific during World War II, Jackson graduated from Virginia State and went on to earn a master’s degree in journalism at Columbia. For seven years he was a reporter for the Newark Evening News. In 1959, he became one of only a handful of black reporters at The Washington Post.

He served on the Columbia faculty from 1968 to 1992. His son, Lee F. Jackson, was killed in the same 1996 plane crash that took the life of Commerce Secretary Ron Brown.

Hattie Jackson Higgs (1933-2008)

Hattie Jackson Higgs, a member of the faculty at Prairie View A&M University for 40 years, died last month of complications from Alzheimer’s disease. She was 74 years old.

Professor Higgs was a native of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, where her father was a professor at the state’s historically black university. After graduating from Pine Bluff in 1954, Higgs earned a master’s degree in French from Atlanta University.

Higgs joined the faculty at Prairie View in 1955 teaching French, Spanish, and German to both undergraduate and graduate students. She remained on the faculty at Prairie View until her retirement in 1995.

Will Robinson (1911-2008)

Will Robinson, the first African American to coach basketball at a predominantly white NCAA Division I university, has died at a Detroit hospital. He was 96 years old.

Robinson was born in Wadesboro, North Carolina, but was raised by his grandparents in Steubenville, Ohio. He finished second in the Ohio state high school golf championship despite the fact that he was not allowed on the course at the same time as white competitors. He went on to West Virginia State College, a historically black institution, where he earned 15 varsity letters in four sports.

In 1970 he was named head coach of the men’s basketball team at Illinois State University. He coached for six seasons, compiling a record of 78-51. Robinson then worked as a scout for the National Basketball Association’s Detroit Pistons and the National Football League’s Detroit Lions.