60 years later, Oliver Hill's legacy lives on - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

60 years later, Oliver Hill's legacy lives on


Saturday marks the 60th anniversary of the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision that made the segregation of public schools illegal.

Richmond civil rights lawyer Oliver Hill was on the legal team that won the case. Now sixty years later his legacy looms large.

Oliver Hill Junior was only five years old, but he will never forget that day.

"I remember my father left his work early and came home and everyone was excited," Hill Jr., recalled.

Excited because his father's legal team had forever changed the course of education in America. It was a victory that affirmed that separate was never equal. Young Oliver Hill Junior quickly went from childhood observer to participant in that historic shift.

"I mean they talked to me about it all the time because they I was probably going to be among the first group of students to integrate the schools," he said.

Hill Jr. was among a group of 25 black students to attend a white Richmond middle school.

"Well it was pretty scary for me at the time," Hill Jr. said.

But that initial intimidation melted away and learning along side people of a different race was beneficial. The perfect outcome his father had hoped for.

"The in school experience was a good one," he said.

Sadly though Hill Jr. believes that while segregation is now illegal, education still divides the haves and have nots- just not always on racial lines.

"I'm not clear why there is not outrage at the state of a lot of schools in the large cities in U.S.," he said. "Especially in this one (Richmond)."

If his father were alive today he'd be encouraging activists to demand investment in schools not only as a moral issue- but an economic one. And he knows the first place he would look to lead the charge.

"He was always talking about the power of young people," Hill Jr. told us.

Young people- like the ones who recently walked out of their Richmond high school demanding investment in city schools. A demonstration that has quickly led to action by leaders.

"I do think some of that kind of student activism can shame parents into taking action," said Hill Jr.

So now sixty years later, with his father's legacy firmly in place, his son believes the work continues.

"We have to start to see how we are part of a larger whole," he said. "Everything is influencing everything else.

A simple goal, but one that eludes us, even to this day.

Oliver Hill Senior died in 2007 at the age of 100. He had hoped to live until 2020. That was the year initially targeted for full de-segregation of America's education system.

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