NAACP Honors Oliver W. Hill with 90th Spingarn MedalMay 22, 2005
Association's highest honor bestowed on extraordinary civil rights advocate and litigator
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Board of Directors named lawyer Oliver W. Hill as the 90th recipient of the Spingarn Medal, the NAACP's highest honor. Hill will receive the award during the 96th NAACP National Convention in Milwaukee, Wis. during the annual Spingarn Dinner.
Julian Bond, Chairman, NAACP Board of Directors, said: "Oliver Hill is a giant in civil rights law ? for years, he was the Virginia civil rights lawyer, risking life and limb to defend civil rights in hostile circumstances. As the lawyer for the Virginia cases that became Brown v. Board of Education, his legal skills and dogged persistence won the landmark civil rights case of the 20th Century."
Oliver W. Hill's attack on the doctrine of "separate but equal" is a recurring theme in his legal career. After graduating from Howard Law School in 1933, he later became a cooperating lawyer with the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. Hill's team of lawyers filed more civil rights suits in Virginia than the total filed in all other Southern states during the segregation era. He won his first civil rights case in 1940, securing equal pay for black teachers in Norfolk, Va. It is estimated that Hill's legal team was responsible for winning more than $50 million dollars in higher pay, new buses and better schools for black teachers and students.
Hill played a pivotal role in Brown v. Board of Education, the revolutionary Supreme Court case outlawing segregation in schools. He became involved when he and law partner Spottswood W. Robinson III learned that students at an all-black high school in Farmville, Va. had walked out of the school's leaky and dilapidated buildings. Hill was a trial lawyer in the subsequent lawsuit, Davis v. County School Board of Prince Edward County, one of five cases decided under Brown v. Board.
Even outside the courtroom, Hill's dedication to advancing civil rights is evident. In 1948, he won a seat on the Richmond City Council, becoming the first African American to do so since Reconstruction. Hill worked as Assistant to the Federal Housing Commissioner and later as Federal Housing Commissioner in the Department of Housing and Urban Development. He also served on several local, state, and national organizations, including the NAACP National Legal Committee, the Virginia State Bar Bench Bar Relations Committee, the National Bar Association, the Southern Conference for Human Welfare and the Old Dominion Bar Association, which he co-founded.
Hill retired from his law practice in 1998, at the age of 91. He currently resides in Richmond, Va. and continues to speak to students and others about his legal career and history of activism.
The Spingarn Award, first presented in 1915 by NAACP Chairman Joel E. Spingarn, is designed to highlight distinguished merit and achievement among African Americans. Previous Spingarn winners include: Oprah Winfrey, Vernon Jordan, Earl G. Graves, Sr., former Virginia Governor L. Douglas Wilder, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., William H. Cosby, Jr., Rosa Parks, Leontyne Price, Maya Angelou, General Colin Powell, Edward "Duke" Ellington, Carl T. Rowan, Alex Haley, Jacob Lawrence, Henry "Hank" Aaron, and Myrlie Evers-Williams, Chairman Emeritus, the NAACP Board of Directors.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is the nation's oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its half-million adult and youth members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities and monitor equal opportunity in the public and private sectors.
CONTACT: NAACP Office of Communications 410.580.5125