Virginia is for ‘Loving’

11/4/2016, 6:27 p.m.
Six years after Mildred Loving’s death in Caroline County outside of Richmond, people from all over the world still post ...
Richard Loving embraces his wife, Mildred, at a Washington press conference on June 13, 1967, one day after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling overturned the ban on interracial marriage in Virginia and 15 other states.

By Lauren Northington

Six years after Mildred Loving’s death in Caroline County outside of Richmond, people from all over the world still post messages on a website with her online obituary.

Mrs. Loving and her husband, Richard, helped change Virginia’s and the nation’s marriage equality laws in 1967.

Richard, who was white, and Mildred, who was black and Native American, broke the law by marrying in 1958. They were arrested in their small, Central Point home for violating Virginia’s ban against interracial marriage.

Their case, Loving v. Virginia, went all the way to the U. S. Supreme Court, which overturned miscegenation laws in Virginia and 15 other states in its 1967 ruling.

The decision allowed the Lovings to return from exile to their modest Virginia homestead.

Their marriage and historic legal victory are the subject of the Universal Studios film “Loving,” which opens in theaters this Friday, Nov. 4.

The film, starring Australian actor Joel Edgerton as Mr. Loving and Ethiopian-Irish actress Ruth Negga as Mrs. Loving, was filmed last year largely in Richmond and Caroline County.

So far, the movie has received Oscar-worthy reviews.

The Lovings’ story of love without bounds continues to resonate with people everywhere. Under Mrs. Loving’s May 2008 obituary on Legacy.com, notes of admiration and thanks have been left through the years and as recently as last week. Many are from people who said her courage opened the doors for them to marry someone from another race.

Some people even posted photos of themselves with their spouse.

“Thank you for showing what our country can be at its best,” wrote Fred from Pittsboro, N.C., last week.

“Thank you for standing up for your given rights, the two of you were just amazing people: Mr. & Mrs. Loving,” stated Anne M. Gray from Los Angeles.

The Lovings married in June 1958 in the District of Columbia to evade Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924, which prevented marriages between white people and non-whites. The couple returned to Caroline County to establish their home.

Mr. Loving, 24, worked as a bricklayer and Mrs. Loving, 18 and pregnant, was a homemaker.

They enjoyed their life in Virginia and being surrounded by family and friends, their daughter, Peggy Loving Fortune, told the Associated Press in 2008 at her mother’s death.

But shortly after their marriage, local police busted into the couple’s home one night and arrested them. They were sentenced to one year in jail, which was suspended for 25 years on the condition they leave Virginia and not return together. The couple moved to Washington to avoid jail but experienced severe social isolation and financial difficulties, according to court documents.

After a car struck their son, Donald, in their Washington neighborhood, the homesick Mrs. Loving wrote to then-U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who advised her to go to the ACLU.

“My husband is white and I am part negro and part Indian,” the 22-year-old Mrs. Loving wrote humbly. “We know we can’t live (in Virginia) but we would like to go back once in a while to visit our family and friends.”