I'd like to tell you a love story. In 1950 Mildred was 11 years old, living in Virginia, when she met Richard. Richard was 17 and a friend of the family. Over the next eight years, Richard and Mildred's friendship began to grow until it blossomed into love. When Mildred was 18 and Richard was 25, Mildred became pregnant, which in 1958 was probably still considered quite scandalous. The couple was in love and decided to run away to Washington D.C. to elope. Upon arriving back in Virginia they were immediately arrested and thrown in jail.
Seems like a pretty steep punishment for becoming pregnant out of wedlock, but that's not what they were arrested for. You see Mildred was African-American and Richard was white and in 1958 inter-racial marriages were illegal in Virginia and 15 other states. The Virginia Racial Integrity Act of 1924 criminalized marriages between white and non-white persons, and the Lovings were charged under Virginia's anti-miscegenation law with, "co-habiting as man and wife, against the peace and dignity of the Commonwealth".
The Lovings pled guilty, and were convicted by the Caroline County circuit court on January 6, 1959. They were sentenced to one year in prison, suspended for 25 years upon the condition that they leave the state of Virginia. They moved to Washington D.C. and began legal action by writing to Attorney General, Robert F. Kennedy. Kennedy referred the case to the American Civil Liberties Union. Over the next several years they fought and struggled through ups and downs in the case until finally on June 12, 1967, the United States Supreme Court ruled in their favor and struck down all anti-miscegenation laws remaining in the 16 states.
The Lovings returned to Virginia. They had 3 children together, Donald, Peggy, and Sidney. Richard Loving died at age 41 in 1975 when a drunk driver struck their car. Mildred Loving lost her right eye in the same accident. Mildred Loving died of pneumonia on May 2, 2008, in Milford, Virginia, at age 68.
Mildred Loving issued a statement on June 12, 2007, the 40th anniversary of the Loving vs. Virginia Supreme Courts decision, in which she said:
"Surrounded as I am now by wonderful grandchildren and children, 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, even if others thought he was the "wrong kind of person" for me to marry. I believe all Americans, no matter their race, no matter their sex, no matter their sexual orientation, should have that same freedom to marry. Government has no business imposing some people's religious beliefs over others. Especially if it denies people's civil rights."
Richard and Mildred Loving in 1967, the year they won their long court case challenging Virginia's miscegenation laws. (Associated Press)