Groundbreaking Interracial Marriage

"It was a terrible time in America," said Cohen. "Racism was ripe and this was the last du jour vestige of racism — there was a lot of de facto racism, but this law was terrible and it was the last on-the-books manifestation of slavery in America."

"We basically did our jobs as lawyers," said Hirschkop. "The case had had its time and we were the stewards to get it to the Supreme Court — it just needed to get there."

Hirschkop notes that while some couples may have folded under the pressure, the Lovings remained united. Looking back, Loving said she took it one day at a time and did a lot of praying.

The court finally made its decision in June 1967, ruling that Virginia's anti-miscegenation laws violated both the equal protection clause and due process clause of the 14th Amendment. "Under our Constitution," the court said, "the freedom to marry, or not to marry, a person of another race resides with the individual, and cannot be infringed by the state."

"We were so very, very happy," said Loving recalling the day. "I can't describe the way I felt. It was as if I'd been free to live my life."

Soon after the family returned to Caroline County, Va. But as fate would have it, the marriage that made the couple famous ended tragically in 1975 when a drunken driver killed Richard in a car accident.

"I just wish that Richard was here to celebrate the anniversary," Loving said.

Still reticent to accept her hero status, she has not yet attended a Loving Day event, but she seems humbled to hear about its existence. "Isn't that something?" she said. "I never new it would be this big!"

What does Mildred Loving hope younger generations will take most from her story? "If you're pursuing something and you know it's right—not to give up," she said. "Everyone has rights."

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