Howard University

Oliver W. Hill Sr. Memorial Service

Oliver W. Hill Sr. Memorial Service
Friday, September 7, 2007
Howard University School of Law
Dunbarton Chapel
12:00-1:00 p.m.

Oliver W. Hill – A Brief History

Oliver White Hill was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1907. He earned his undergraduate degree from Howard University and graduated from Howard University School of Law in 1933. Hill was a classmate, rival, and close friend of Thurgood Marshall in law school. They remained close throughout Marshall’s life, working together on numerous cases for the NAACP and Legal Defense Fund. Hill litigated Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, one of the four cases the Supreme Court combined into Brown v. Board of Education. Hill was inspired by Charles Hamilton Houston and his vision of lawyers as transformative “social engineers.”

Hill practiced law in Virginia, working at first within the separate-but-equal framework of Plessy v. Ferguson, on a broad equalization campaign for better pay, transportation, and facilities for African American teachers and students.

In 1943, Hill joined the Army. Upon returning from service in Europe, Hill continued his fight for civil rights. He won the right for equal transportation for school children in the Virginia Supreme Court as he had won the right for equal pay for teachers in the 4th Circuit. In 1948, Spottswood Robinson was named special NAACP counsel in Virginia. Hill and Robinson filed dozens of cases against school districts throughout the state. He was the first African American on the City Council of Richmond, Virginia, a position he took in 1949.

Hill’s accomplishments have earned him many awards and citations including the 1959 “Lawyer of the Year Award” from the National Bar Association, the “Simple Justice Award” from the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund in 1986, and the American Bar Association “Justice Thurgood Marshall Award” in 1993. Until his retirement in July 1998, Hill was a partner in the law firm of Hill, Tucker & Marsh. On August 11, 1999, President William J. Clinton, awarded Hill the highest honor the nation can bestow, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

In January 2004, at the age of 97, Hill returned to Howard University School of Law to be honored during the fiftieth anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education and was a panelist on “The Lawyers Who Defeated ‘Separate But Equal.’” He has been a distinguished and honored guest at Howard University School of Law many times since.

Excerpted from Brown@50 Fulfilling the Promise, Howard University School of Law, www.brownat50.org/brownBios/BioOliverHill.html. Used by permission.


For more about the life of Oliver Hill, click the following links:

Happy 100th Birthday Tribute to Oliver Hill at Howard University School of Law
This event took place April 5th 2007.

Richmond Times-Dispatch

Washington Post

New York Times

LA Times

San Jose Mercury News

Philadelphia Inquirer

Chicago Tribune

BBC News

MSNBC News

CBS News

Howard University School of Law—Brown@50: Fulfilling the Promise—Oliver W. Hill Biography

An interview with Oliver Hill with the Thomas Jefferson Center for Protection of Freedom of Expression

Oliver Hill Interview: Voices of Freedom, Special Collections and Archives James Branch Cabell Library VCU Libraries (requires RealPlayer)

PBS.org—Beyond Brown: Oliver W. Hill

The Oliver Hill Foundation