Richard and Mildred Loving’s story is a beautiful testament to the power of love and the resilience of the human spirit. The couple’s fight to be recognized as a legally married interracial couple ultimately led to a landmark Supreme Court decision that desegregated marriage in the United States. Today, we’ll take a closer look at their life together and the court case that changed history.
Life in Central Point, Virginia
Richard Loving, a white man, and Mildred Jeter, a Black and Native American woman, grew up in rural Virginia. The two fell in love and decided to get married in Washington D.C. in 1958. However, upon returning to their home state, the couple was arrested and charged with violating Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act, which prohibited interracial marriage. Richard and Mildred were convicted and given a choice: leave Virginia and not return together for 25 years, or face jail time. The Lovings chose to leave, but the situation left them feeling trapped and unhappy.
Going to court
In 1963, Mildred wrote a letter to Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy seeking help. Kennedy referred the Lovings to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which took on their case. Over the course of several years, the ACLU worked tirelessly to fight for the Lovings’ right to marry and live as a family in their home state. In 1967, their case, Loving v. Virginia, made its way to the Supreme Court, which ruled that Virginia’s ban on interracial marriage was unconstitutional.
The decision in Loving v. Virginia had a profound impact on the United States, not only by desegregating marriage, but also by laying the groundwork for future civil rights cases. In the years following the case, public opinion on interracial marriage shifted, and by the 2000s, the number of interracial marriages in the U.S. had increased significantly.
Life after the Supreme Court
But the Loving’s fight was not just about changing laws or societal attitudes. It was about the right to love and be with the person you choose, regardless of race. Richard and Mildred’s love was powerful and enduring, and their courage and determination in the face of adversity serves as an inspiration to many.
Mildred once said, “Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Richard and our love, our right to marry, and how much it meant to me to have that freedom to marry the person precious to me.”
Today, the Lovings’ legacy lives on, not only in the legal and social progress made since their case, but in the way they lived their lives together. Richard and Mildred were married for over 20 years and had three children. They were quiet, unassuming people who simply wanted to be allowed to love each other and live as a family. In a world that often seems divided and contentious, their love story is a reminder of the beauty and power of love to overcome obstacles and bring people together.
The story of Richard and Mildred Loving is a testament to the power of love and the importance of standing up for what is right. Their case desegregated marriage in the United States and set the stage for future civil rights victories. But beyond the legal and historical significance of their story, Richard and Mildred’s love and commitment to each other serve as a shining example of what is possible when we open our hearts to one another. Their story is one that will continue to inspire and move us for generations to come.
Ep52 – The Loving Couple
News Clip: I said, I think to learn who you want to is all right. That no man should have anything to do with, it’s a God given, right? I think Mildred Loving married the boy Next door, Richard Loving. Richard Loving is a construction worker, Mildred loving the daughter of Sharecropper. They were born and raised in Caroline County, Virginia, where white and colored people seem unaware of the racial prejudice that exists in much of the country.
The Lovings didn’t know that it was a crime for a white person to marry a Negro in Virginia. They found out the hard way.
Scott: Welcome to Talk with History. I’m your host Scott here with my wife and historian Jen. On this podcast, we give you insights to our history inspired World Travels YouTube channel journey, and examine history through deeper conversations with the curious, the explorers and the history lovers out there. Now tonight, we don’t have any guests, but we are talking about our most recent video, and that is the video on the Loving Couple.
Yeah. So Jen, why don’t you give us like a quick background on the Loving Couple or kind of why we decided to do this
Jenn: one. So it, it kind of was. A perfect story to tell at the perfect time. Yeah. It it’s the week of Valentine’s Day and it’s Black History Month. Yeah. So the loving couple were the, the face of the Landmark Supreme Court case that allowed interracial marriage to be legalized in the
Yeah. And I actually remember you, you had dug up this particular history case because their hometown is not too far from us. Probably a few months ago. Yes. And I had kind of written, written it down, and when you told me a little bit about that story, I was like, oh my gosh. From a. Storytelling perspective.
This is such an incredible story cuz they have all these ups and downs Yes. In what they go through. So give us a little bit of the, like, set the stage for us on, on this, this, this couple.
[00:02:00] Who were the Lovings?
Jenn: So Central Point, Virginia is kind of how it sounds. It’s like the central point of Virginia. Yeah. It’s square in the middle.
Yeah. It really is of the state. It’s very
Scott: rural. We show it in the, in the map. It’s. Like the closest thing is Bowling Green.
Jenn: Yeah. Bowling Green is the closest city. Sparta. Yeah.
Scott: It’s kind of like a city. It’s it’s what, like an hour and change from Richmond?
Jenn: Yes. Yeah. And it’s, it’s just a rural area, like really it’s just two roads, a church country store and a school.
It is out
Scott: in the middle of nowhere,
Jenn: out in middle of today. There’s not even the country store. So, so it’s pretty much rural in the middle of nowhere. And at the time of the lovings, You know, in their youth and living there, this is around the 1950s. It is a very integrated, racially integrated town. The people did intermarry there and they basically just minded their own business and they had always kinda lived that way.
And. Mildred and Richard Mildred’s real name was her maiden name was Jeter, and there’s a lot of Jeters in the cemetery. You can see their names. And her mother’s maiden name was Bird, b y r d, and there’s a lot of birds in the. Cemeteries. Well, and that country store was owned by the Bird family. So Mildred and Richard are both kind of from a long fam familiar line in that area.
And it’s a
Scott: beautiful area. Like we were driving out there and I was, we were talking on the way out. . It’s part of the, one of our favorite things we get to do on Walk with History is, is drive to some of these more random locations. Cuz it was a gorgeous country. I mean, it’s, it’s out in the farming country.
And I believe one of the things, one of the, the clips we put in the video was some old news clips from the sixties and seventies. Mm-hmm. and they. I think actually that kind of the intro for our video is one of the news clip intros from 1967 or 68. Yes. Yes. And the news person says like, you know her, she’s the daughter of a sharecropper.
Mm-hmm. , you know.
Jenn: Yeah. She’s the daughter. So again, they’ve had long family history that lived out there, and like I said, people pretty much interracially married there, so really they didn’t think anything of it. And so, They fell in love. They fell in love in high school. They decided to get married in June of 1958.
And you couldn’t get married in Virginia though because of the Jim Crow laws. If you were interracial. And this is because there was the Racial Integrity Act of 1924 made it so your birth certificate and your marriage certificate had to have your race on it. Oh, interesting. And so they made sure, and it really was to protect white.
Right. Yeah, because it, there’s only two categories. You could be white or colored, right? So if you weren’t white, you were every, everything else was colored. So Mildred is not just African American, she’s a Native American. Right? And that is very, if you go to the cemetery like we did, They have their tribes.
Oh, I think I, I
Scott: missed that
Jenn: tombstones. Oh, cool. And so it’s a very Native American area as well. And that really is what she identifies more as an American Indian. She actually will say that like she really doesn’t identify as African American. And so, but because you only are two races colored or white, If they were going to try to get married in Virginia because of that act, you couldn’t get married because of what is on your birth
Yeah. And, and, and that’s one of the things that I, I kind of knew happened, but I didn’t know much about the laws or the state specific laws. Right. And that at that time, I mean this wasn’t long after was Brown versus the Board, board of Education. That’s
Jenn: 1955. That’s, so it’s 1955. So
Scott: three years later, three or four years later, why to get married.
Right. So a lot of these laws, people don’t realize that those, these things are kind of sticking around. Yeah. And especially in some of the more southern states.
Jenn: Yeah. . People are digging in their heels. Yeah. They don’t wanna change. And so June 2nd, 1958, they drive to Washington, DC and get married. Yeah. And come back down to Central Point, Virginia to live their lives.
And it’s a little over a month later, July 11th, that the police raided their house. Yeah. I mean they, that was crazy. They opened and now, now people didn’t lock their doors, but they open their doors come in and. Try to catch them in bed in the act. Yeah, but they’re sleeping cuz it’s like two in the morning.
Yeah. Right. And they’re married. So who’s doing that at two in the morning when you’re married? You know? So, yeah, that’s a great point. . . We’re tired. I know. And so they shine the flashlights on him and they’re like, you know, you can’t be in here together. You can’t be cohabitating as a married couple. And Mildred points to their marriage certificate.
It’s framed on the wall and he, they’re like, that’s no good here. And it’s because they’re trying to be married, cohabitating. They are arrested and they’re taken to prison. And what’s very interesting at the time is mild is actually pregnant
Scott: at the time. Yeah. So actually I don’t, I didn’t realize that until we watch Mr.
We watched Mr. Beats mm-hmm. channel. Yeah. Right. So not Mr. Beast, the big YouTuber, but Mr. Beat. Historian, it’s a very large channel. After you watch this, I’d encourage you to go check it out. Cause he, he, he does a great job on a ton of
Jenn: stuff. Yeah, he does. Like, he, he really is hitting Supreme Court cases.
Yeah. And because this is a Supreme Court case, he talks about it in that lens. We try to tell more of the story of their life.
Scott: the Supreme Court. Yeah. And their story. I mean, if you haven’t watched our video, this is honestly probably one of my favorite videos that I’ve made in quite some time, cuz I think it’s just such a powerful
It is a powerful story. And so when you think about a woman newly pregnant in prison, you would think they would want to get her out right away. But that’s not what happens. Richard is bailed out right away. Yeah. And the judge keeps Mildred in jail for two more days because they’re afraid they’re gonna cohabitate again.
And so they don’t want her to be bailed out. And then go back to her husband. So they make, they allow her father to bail her out under the stipulation that they, she won’t go back to the house with her. And,
Scott: and we even show a news clip now of, obviously this was after everything was successful. And, and their, their case goes all the way up to the Supreme Court.
She even says to the news people and his sister,
Jenn: his sister got a bonding company to get him out. And they told the bonding company if they tried to get me out, that they would put him back in jail. I look at Richard’s face when she’s telling that story cuz I, to me it seems very crippling as a man who’s trying to take care of his wife, right?
You don’t want your wife in prison and you’re free and you’re told, well, if you try to get her out, we’re gonna put you back in prison. It. So they, I, I just really love the Lovings and I know that’s funny to say because they don’t, they’re very unassuming couple, they’re not looking for this publicity.
They’re not looking to be the face of the Supreme Court case. All they’re looking for is to live their lives in peace, and this is what it’s gonna take. So in January of 1959, they go to court for this arrest and they’re found guilty and they are ordered to one year in prison. or they can leave the State of Virginia and not come back together for 25 years.
Scott: I I, I even when you kind of told me that, that part of the story and I was making the video that just. It was so hard for me to process. Mm-hmm. . Right. And I guess maybe that’s because those of us nowadays are the large majority of folks living in the United States. Like, can’t fathom Yeah. A law like that.
A restriction like that. Like uh, the hatred like
Jenn: that. Yeah, the hatred like that. So they moved to Washington, DC and they get a small apartment, but the law kind of watches them and is very, it’s a game of Cat mouse. Mildred will come back to Central Point to have her baby. And Richard will come back to be there with the birth of his child.
Oh. And it’s right after they have the baby, they’re arrested again. And so then they, they go back to DC and so it’s very much like they. I mean, this is their family. Like I told you, they’re very rooted in this area. They try to come back for birthdays and holidays, and it’s very much the police trying to catch them.
Like that’s what they’re very occupied with
Scott: because all their fam, I mean, both of them have long family ties in the area.
Jenn: So it’s, it’s in 1964. Mildred is just, I mean, she’s depressed. Yeah. She misses her family. They’re living in dc they’re living in dc They’re living in a small apartment. Richard is a, is a brick layer, so he’s getting work, but it’s hard work and their kids don’t have any space like they have in Central Point, Virginia to run around and play in the, in the yard or in the field.
And so their youngest son is playing out front and gets hit by a car and he’s not injured, but it’s enough to send Mildred over the edge where she writes a letter to the Attorney General of the United States. And that’s Robert F. Kennedy. Yeah. And Kennedy gets this letter good on him and forwards it to the A C L U, the American Civil Liberties Union, and they do pro bono legal work that is going to forward.
the Constitutional Rights of America. Yep. And it gets into the hands of two lawyers in Alexandria, Virginia. And Cohen is kind of like the face, right. For those two.
[00:11:27] Going to higher courts
Scott: Yeah. And that, and that was one of the cool things that, that I like making about these, these kinds of videos that are a little bit more recent history because you can find news clips of everybody. So if you haven’t watched our video, if you’re listening to the podcast, you know, definitely, definitely go watch the video because you get to see Richard and Mel talking.
You get to see. Cohen. Yes. You know, we don’t have clips of him talking. I didn’t, I didn’t play those. But you get to see all these old news clips of, of this stuff happening, right? Yeah. And some of it we, I was able to pull, there was an HBO special mm-hmm. , kind of like a documentary made on it not too long ago.
So they had kind of aggregated some stuff. So I, I pulled p bits and pieces from that, and then some from the actual original news clips that are floating around on YouTube. Yes, it was, it was. So, it’s really neat for me as a video maker, To be able to see these people, and it really kind of makes the story that much more
Absolutely. And you, you get to see them both. Richard is very, he’s stoic. He’s quiet. Yeah. He doesn’t say much. Mildred is the more outgoing of the two, and that says a lot because they’re both not outgoing. She’s also quiet, but she’s well spoken and she’s, she’s beautiful. She’s very slender. Mm-hmm. , and together they just, they make.
You know, they make a, a very, I, I guess a, a loving couple. They’re not very demonstrative, but they sit very close to each other and they very are supportive of each other, as
Scott: they say. Well, they’re not very demo demonstrative, like when the news meet is around. Yeah, because they had, like, the reason we had all these news clips is because there was a news camera at their house.
Sure. Like in their kitchen.
Jenn: They told us we would come to the Supreme Court if we wanted to, but so probably wouldn’t understand just up to us if we wanted to come. So we didn’t even go. I didn’t want to go. I’m nervous enough tonight. Do you think that this brings you closer together? Yes, I do. I think, I guess.
Scott: I don’t think so. You know, and there actually was, there is some clips of them outside of some of the courthouses. They didn’t end up going to the Supreme
Jenn: Court. No, but so what happens? The Cohen’s, the Cohen Law Firm files a motion right away. to vacate their prior conviction. So they can go back to Virginia and he does it through the Virginia Supreme Court.
And that happens in 1965. And that is why we go to Richmond, Virginia, right in our video because the Virginia Supreme Court is in Richmond, Virginia. And there is a marker there. To, you know, memorialize this case. But at the time, yeah, when we were there, when we were there, they’re doing construction on that side literally
Scott: right of the quarter between the two buildings where the marker was supposed to be.
The, the, the construction zone is right between these two buildings and they
Jenn: take, they took the marker down, you know, of accordingly cuz they’re fixing and they just lean it up against. The building, the supreme, the, the court building, but in a location that you really can’t read it or see it, they could have made it a little closer to the gated area where you have to walk.
Scott: actually had to walk around the block like once or twice we saw it, like, and we actually went, there was, there was like, there was a park on the other side and so we actually asked these cops that were over there with like their, with their. You know, police dog dogs. Yeah. And, and we were like, Hey, do you guys know where this marker is?
Like, are we allowed to go in that construction area? Because I think we, I think I finally spotted it. Yeah, we, yeah. So I finally spotted it and we’re like, are we allowed to go in there? And the cops were looking at us like, we’re kind of half crazy. And they’re
Jenn: we’re like, we have a history channel.
All we wanna do is
Scott: video tape. They’re like, yeah, we’re not even allowed to kind of really go in there. I don’t, I think if it’s gated off, it’s gated off. We’re like, ah, dang it. And so that’s, We were, we were walking around, which actually we found some other cool stuff that we’ll probably associate. Sure.
Show some clips from like on Instagram and stuff like that. What’s the capital? But didn’t, yeah. So, was some other really neat stuff there, but eventually we found like a good vantage point Yes. To get a good shot. So we got a shot of the marker leaning up against leg, up against the courthouse and then you about
But we do great comparison about leaving their rural roots to fight the big fight in the big city. Yeah. In the urban jungle. And so we do that kind of talk. So what happens? In the 1965 Supreme Court case is the judge upholds the, the guilty verdict, but he vacates their 25 years living outside of Virginia, so they’re actually able to move back to Central Point, Virginia.
So even as the Supreme Court case goes to DC they’re back in Virginia. Oh, I don’t think I realize that. So that is, And they don’t go to the Supreme Court case, but Cohen goes to see them in Virginia and he asks, Richard, is there anything you would like me to say to the judges of the Supreme Court? And that’s when Richard will say, tell the, tell the judge I love my wife.
Like it’s so simple to him. It’s so basic to him. I love my wife and I want to be married to her legally, and I want to live with her and have no issues with us being arrested. Yeah. For just trying to live a normal life. And that is so powerful that in 1967 when Cohen goes to argue this case in front of the Supreme Court, it’s a unanimous decision.
And what I think is important, these are all white. Male judges. Yeah. Older. Older. And they all vote in favor of striking down the, the law and making interracial marriage. Legal nationwide. Yeah. And they used the 14th Amendment you know, equality for for everybody. And that race is, is too subjective to limit someone in marriage.
And so there were. You would, there’s mostly the southern part of America had still uphold interracial marriage laws. But once that is decided by the Supreme Court, the legislation doesn’t fight back. Of course, then all those laws are overturned.
Scott: Yeah. So there was, I think we said in the video there was 16 states that, that had laws like that at the time that were basically overturned by what the Supreme Court said.
Yep. Obviously in practice that probably took a little bit longer but. . I, I’m not too, me personally, I’m not too surprised that this, the Supreme Court justices that were there did overturn it. Because if you think about it, these are probably all the same folks who just did Brown versus support education.
Education, yes. So that’s, that’s the, that’s the, you know, it’s civil rights era. Yes. It’s, and actually by the time it gets to them, we’re, we’re, we’re almost on the other side of the civil rights era. Sure. Not, not completely. Yeah. But it’s 67. It’s not the late fifties. Yes. So this has been going on for about 10 years.
Jenn: Mm-hmm. and. The case is decided June 12th, 1967. And since then, June 12th has become Loving Day. Oh, I don’t think I knew that. Yeah. So if you ever wanna celebrate Loving Day, it’s June 12th and that is the day that, you know, interracial marriage was legalized in the, in the nation. And of course, we talk about this, I don’t think we talk about this in the video, but Mr.
Beat does this is gonna open the door for other equality marriage laws Absolutely. In the nation.
[00:18:34] After the court case
Jenn: Mildred and Richard will move back to Center Point. He will build her a house. Yeah. The house still stands today. It’s on Passing road. We didn’t quite make it to the house. It is, yeah.
Scott: We, we, we missed it.
We were looking around for the description and it was actually a little bit further away from the church. Yes. But it’s
Jenn: on passing road. We, and we realized, and it’s interesting that. Passing is the word. Yeah. For the road there, because passing is another term that’s used if you are light-skinned enough but still have a African-American blood you can be, you can pass for white.
So that’s what that the term is, is sometimes used for. And it’s interesting that that’s in Center Point, Virginia. And these are people who are interracially marrying. So that’s kind of like a interesting. That you’ll know when you hit that road passing in Sparta, but it’s not too long Later in June of 19.
75 that Mildred and Richard are driving close to home and they’re hit by a drunk driver. Yeah. And Richard will die in the accident and Mildred will lose her right eye. But Mildred will never remarry and she will forever live in that house. That Richard built for her. And then she will eventually, she succumbeded to pneumonia in 2008.
So we were lucky enough to visit their graves and they’re buried. Is it St. Patch? St. Steven’s Baptist Church, and that’s in Central Port, Virginia. And right across from the church is the graveyard. Yeah. You can’t, you can’t miss that. And you can tell that this is a family graveyard. There’s a lot of jeters and birds and Yeah.
Scott: And it’s not too far. You can actually look up the, the loving couple historic marker. Mm-hmm. , that’s on one of the main roads. And it’s. From the marker. Right? I I’m pretty sure you can Google it. And actually what I’ll do is I, I mark these on like a, a Google map. Yes. And I’ll share that Google Map page.
Yes. I think it’s Sparta
Jenn: Road, right? That takes you all the way into when you hit passing road, that’s when you know you’re in
Scott: Yes. You, you could probably look up where the marker is. And like I said, I’ll, I’ll share the link in, in this video description to, to the Google Maps link. And you’ll have like a little map of where that is.
Those couple points are. From there, it’s basically like 10 miles. It’s 11, yeah. 11 miles. It’s, it’s straight in. It says it right on the marker. Mm-hmm. . So it’s actually not too, too difficult to, to, to find.
Jenn: No. And you know, they put historic markers on more well-traveled roads, and so this is like highway 3 0 1.
It’s Richmond turnpike. And so this is like a, a busier road. And so if you can imagine it takes you 11 miles from that busier road. . Yeah. That’s how rural the area is. Yeah. But it was just an honor. Like I really felt it was important to tell this story at this time in the month and just to being recognition to them, they seemed like a couple that really didn’t want the recognition.
Scott has alluded to a time, came out after the decision was made and did a whole Photography session with them and recorded them, that that kind of got their faces more into the media. Mm-hmm. and people got to realize more about this case. But they really never wanted so much attention, but they were proud of what they had done.
And even Mildred at the end of her life Al always was very proud that, that they had fought for their marriage and for their love. Today, the United States Supreme Court handed down a decision the Lovings ordeal is at last. Richard and Mildred Loving have won the right to be man and wife, father and mother in the state of.
anti miscegenation laws have been declared illegal, not only in Virginia, but in all 16 states that have held such statutes. Yeah. And,
Scott: and this was, this was such a fun story. And, and again, I encourage you, if you’re watching the live streamer, if you’re listening to the podcast, you know, a after you’re done here, go go and find the video.
It’s, it’s one of, it’s not a super long video. Right. Even just like tonight’s live stream. Mm-hmm. , this is. A shorter live stream for us, cuz it’s a quick and easy and successful and happy story to tell, but it, the, the things that they dealt with, right? Being, you know, falling in love and then they can’t get married so they go somewhere else to get married.
Right? They hit the high and then they. Come back and a month later they’re arrested for, for being married, right? Mm-hmm. . And they hit a low. And so then, then they leave and they’re living together and it’s another high, and then the sun gets, so it’s this up and down story, and they just, the one thing they do to persevere is that they stay together.
Mm-hmm. . And then finally they, they write the letter to the attorney general and connect with the A C L U. And their court cases eventually carried on it. For the most part.
Jenn: They were close before the case happened. Yeah. It might have made, brought them closer. But I think looking at them too, and their answer that they gave, they were pretty.
Solid before the case even happened, so, . Yeah. I think what’s the most incredible part is their last name. .
Scott: Yeah. It’s, it’s almost like there’s, there’s no way this story is real. Mm-hmm. . But it, it’s true. And it’s one of those ones that I think they were the couple that was, this was meant to, this was meant to be.
Right. They, they weren’t, Over the top, they just like, Hey, we just wanna live our lives. Mm-hmm. . And so it was, it was truly an incredible
Jenn: story, I think for me too, not being from Virginia. And you always hear the slogan, Virginia is for lovers. Yeah. I think for me it gives new meaning to that slogan now.
Scott: absolutely. Absolutely. So thank you so much for, for joining us and thank you for listening to the Talk with History podcast. And please reach out to us at our website, talk with history.com. If you know someone else that might enjoy this podcast, please share this with them, especially if you think that today’s topic would interest a friend.
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