Oliver White Hill, SR (1907–2007)

Lawrence Edward Hinchee
7 min readAug 14, 2022

Oliver White Hill, Sr. (May 1, 1907 — August 5, 2007) was an American civil rights attorney from Richmond, Virginia. His work against racial discrimination helped end the doctrine of “separate but equal.” He also helped win landmark legal decisions involving equality in pay for black teachers, access to school buses, voting rights, jury selection, and employment protection. He retired in 1998 after practicing law for almost 60 years. Among his numerous awards was the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which U.S. President Bill Clinton awarded him in 1999. (Source: Wikepedia) Though he spent most of his life working and living in Richmond, he did live in my hometown of Roanoke. The house in which he lived in as a child is just up the road from where I work, in a predominantly African American community. His winning the Presidential Medal of Freedom should have been awarded earlier, but thankfully it wasn’t awarded posthumously.

In 1916, the Hills moved to Washington, D.C., where Joseph Hill worked at the Navy Yard during the First World War. Oliver was in the sixth grade, but he did not like the D.C. elementary school he attended for a semester, and so was allowed to return to Roanoke and his foster parents, the Pentecosts. In 1923, further education being unavailable to him in Roanoke, Hill moved to Washington D.C. to attend (and graduate from) Dunbar High School, which at the time may have offered the best education available to black children in the country. At first Oliver was behind a semester academically, and also lacked scholarly seriousness. He also played various sports-especially tennis in Roanoke, but baseball, football and basketball at Dunbar (which did not have a tennis team).

Joseph Hill’s brother Samuel worked for the post office in Washington, D.C., and in his off-hours worked as a lawyer handling mostly wills and real estate transactions. Samuel Hill died of a cerebral hemorrhage when Oliver was a college sophomore, and his widow gave Oliver his law books, which piqued his interest in law…

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Lawrence Edward Hinchee

I am a published author. Book Titled Silent Cries A Memoir. I am a writer, photographer and author. I write under the pen name Brent Seheult. I also read a lot