Interview of Oliver Hill. Interviewed by George Gilliam, Mason Mills, of The Ground Beneath Our Feet project.

Oliver Hill was the N.A.A.C.P. lead attorney for Virginia and tried the Davis v. Prince Edward case, as well as numerous other key civil rights cases in Virginia.

This interview was taken in 2000 for "Massive Resistance," episode four of "The Ground Beneath Our Feet: Virginia's History Since the Civil War," a production of George H. Gilliam and the Central Virginia Educational Television Corporation. George H. Gilliam is the Producer of the series, William G. Thomas, III the Assistant Producer, and Mason Mills the Director of Photography.

The transcripts represent what was said in the interview to the best of our ability. It is possible that some words, particularly names, have been misspelled. We have made no attempt to correct mistakes in grammar.

Barbara Johns and Student Strike
Mr. Gilliam: In 1951, you were practicing law in Richmond and you received a phone call one day from Barbara Johns, what can you - tell me about the phone call as - that you got from Barbara Johns.
Mr. Hill: Well, we were - see the firm then was Hill, Martin and Robinson and we were in our library working on a further - a matter of further relief in a case called Corbin versus Pulaski. Dr. Corbin's son lived in Pulaski and he had to take the bus and ride all the way to Christiansburg in Montgomery County daily, back and forth to the segregated school to see Christians - The high school for that whole area up there from Radford, from Pulaski all the over to Montgomery was school - Christiansburg had been a former little private school. About five o'clock in the evening the phone rang and I got up and answered it and it was Barbara Johns on the phone and she told about how they going out on strike and the reason for it. They wanted to make a statement. Her class wanted to make a statement and do something to improve the condition at the old Moton High School. Of course I knew about that, because I had been up there two or three times to talk to the school board about it. It was a horrible situation they had two or three tar shack buildings and had pipes running from one building to the next and down to some more drums and the heat was uneven and, then of course, outside the main building, in inclimate weather, kids had to come through the rain or in the mud, or what-not, going from one building to another. It was a horrible condition. So, I was aware of all that, and I appreciate the fact and I told them it was nice for them to have done what they did, it attracts public attention to it, but that we had filed a suit in Clarenton County challenging segregation per se, and that we only needed one suit and just for them now - that they made their point go on back to school. But, she insisted that no, they hadn't. That they wanted to do more than that. And as the discussion went on, she was so insistent, so I said, "Well, okay. We'll be coming through Christian - we'll be coming through Farmville Wednesday morning, and we'll leave a little earlier and stop by the school. If you all be at Reverend Griffin's church we'll stop by and talk with you, because we'll be on our way to Christiansburg. And that's what we did, but I say going our way up there. We had the three of us, Martin and Spot. At that time Spot was the Southeastern Regional Counsel for the NAACP legal defense and educational fund. Ah - But all three of us had been handling varying things for the NAACP. And up to that point Thurgood was General Counsel for the NAACP Special Counsel. He was also Executive Director of the - what we called the Ink Fund, the educational fund. And we were one big family. Harry Byrd got on us, and he was threatening to take away the tax-exempt status of the Ink Fund, because that was pretty much the purpose for organizing the Ink Fund. Because you just wrote up a thing, that an organization could get tax exemption. I mean it was tax exemption that could- people could get the benefit of contributions. And- so we had to separate, and Thurgood went with the Ink Fund, and his assistant Robert Carter became the General Counsel for the NAACP. So, in our office, I would represent the NAACP and Spot would be representative for the Legal Defense Fund. So, later on when we filed separate suits we would use it that way; but anything that we handled all three of worked on.
Mr. Gilliam: So, you went down and - you went to Farmville and met with Barbara?
Mr. Hill: We stopped by that morning and the kids were all there and they were - they had such high morale and they were. We didn't have the heart to insist that they go back to school. So, we told them that if their parents would back them we had changed our policy. And now we were going to challenge segregation per se, only. And no longer anymore separate but equal. But if their parents would back them we would take their suit too. Although, we didn't think we needed it. And - So, that what - we suggested, that they have their parent's meet us on Thursday night on our way back from Christiansburg to Richmond. And that's what happened. We got back Thursday night the parents were there. The parents agreed to support their children. And I say, someone in the crowd came up with the idea that since this was a matter, which affected the whole county maybe they ought to make a - have a countywide meeting on it. And so, we postponed any action until the following week, Friday week, and had this big meeting in the - at the church, at the place I stated earlier. It was crowded to the rafters. There were very few dissenting votes. One principal in - I think its over in Cumberland, but he lived in Prince Edward. He was opposed. We could understand that, he would be at the meeting and keep his job and so. But the vote was overwhelming to go on and challenge segregation per se, and we probably filed a petition with the school board and then they came in with some baloney they had plans to build a new school and a whole lot of stuff and of course they denied so we filed suit. And that's the way the suit got started. People asked us why we picked up Farmville. We never picked up Farmville. If we wanted to pick up something we probably would have done Richmond or Norfolk or something like that.
Mr. Gilliam: It took three years for the case to reach the Supreme Court and be decided by the Supreme Court.
Mr. Hill: Well, actually we filed a suit challenging the constitutionality of state statute. I mean it took a three judge district court. So, it took us a year to get to trial and then, of course, the first case that went to the Supreme Court - Clarenton County case went up there first. But it got sent back on some technicality. In the meantime, the Topeka case and a case from Delaware. In the Delaware case the Court had ruled with us. I mean when I say with us I meant the NAACP position, I wasn't in the case. Loving and Greenberg handled that case. So, they were appealing. They were defendants appealing. Topeka was the plaintiffs appealing, in the District of Columbia, was filed not only under the fourteenth amendment but under the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment, or whatever amendment it is, and they had gotten there. So they had these five cases and the Supreme Court consolidated them and used Brown as the lead case, but three of them Brown, Davis and Clarendon County were all fourteenth amendment cases where the plaintiffs are asking for the reversal of Plessy versus Ferguson. The Delaware case were a fourteenth amendment case but it was a case where the defendant Peter Ness Netherby appealed. The District of Columbia case was under the Due Process Clause, cause the fourteenth amendment didn't apply to the District of Columbia not being a state, they had to come under Due Process and they were - the case of the plaintiff appealing before relief. There you had the whole picture.
Thurgood Marshall and NAACP
Mr. Gilliam: Mr. Hill, you had been a law school classmate of Thurgood Marshall's and-
Mr. Hill: Wrong. Wrong. Thurgood Marshall was a classmate of mine. [laughter] Go ahead. Yeah, we were classmates, go ahead.
Mr. Gilliam: And Charles Hamilton Houston had been your teacher and your mentor -
Mr. Hill: Mentor.
Mr. Gilliam: - and friend?
Mr. Hill: Yeah, that's right.
Mr. Gilliam: What can you tell me about the development of the NAACP's attack on segregated education?
Mr. Hill: Well I- as I told you. The NAACP had gotten a grant, it wasn't a grant, I mean a bequest from a young man named Hartman Gallum to challenge segregation and a study had been made, and it was determined to - that education should be the thing we challenged. As I stated, at that time, the big program the NAACP had had, for several years, was an anti-lynching law. And you couldn't get a lynching law through Congress making it a crime to lynch a Negro. So, there wasn't any hope of any political action extending Civil Rights. We realized we had to overturn Plessy versus Ferguson. But - I almost called the guys name, but I can't think of it right this second, but I almost called it. Maybe I'll recall of it before we finish. He suggested we file suit all over the South and challenge segregation per se. But Charles felt like that would be like batting our heads up against a stone wall. That the best thing for us to do would be to challenge segregation at its weakest point, that is the inequality. Plessy versus Ferguson had ruled that separate but equal. So, we challenged the inequality of the separate but equal doctrine and we had great success in all of our law suits under that approach. From the Gaines case, in about 1937. Gaines versus Missouri was a case about a young Negro, wanted to go to law school but they wouldn't admit him. Saying he had to go, the only thing they would offer him - would be the opportunity to go to Iowa. You know, incidentally, that's what brought Thurgood to Howard. Thurgood had applied in Maryland and they had refused him, but offered him tuition to come to Howard. And that was a practice round for a lot of - Virginia picked up on that. But anyway, we finally won the Gaines case and that gave us a case of national repute. I mean, it was a - what do we call it, what do we call?
Mr. Gilliam: A landmark case.
Mr. Hill: A landmark case, yeah. But most people don't realize even though he won his suit, Gaines never went to law school. He disappeared and nobody's ever heard from him. So, if we arrived at a conclusion, he was guilty of - he was a victim of foul play.
Mr. Gilliam: Huh, I did not know that.
Mr. Hill: Yeah, I know. That's what I'm saying - people generally don't know it.
Mr. Gilliam: And why were you convinced by 1950 that the time was right to attack the separate rather than the equal. What had happened to cause the change of strategy?
Mr. Hill: Well, all along - I mean from get go why we challenged separate but equal, our basic aim of course was to eventually to challenge segregation per se. But we felt in the early stages we had to educate the public and educate judges and all that. And that was the reason for the approach that we made. By 1950, in the Texas Law School case. I can't think of the full title, Painter was part of it. The Chief Justice Vinson wrote the opinion of the Court, and in his opinion he cited all of the things that we contended should be made a part of a first class law school. So, we felt, that in as much, that he bought that much of the brief, and the Court of course, I forget if it was 5-4, it wasn't a unanimous decision though. But, anyway, we thought now we had gotten a majority of the Court. That's all we were interested in anyway, getting a majority of the Court. Now we could challenge segregation per se. We had challenged it earlier. I mean, for example, in 19 - Well the case started in 1943 and - I mean, Spot took the bar exam in '43 and we had worked out an arrangement, where his father who was a lawyer would hold things together, when I went into the Army in '43, and was I was over in Roanoke attending the funeral of my - a lady who had been my foster mother for eight years, and Spot was taking the bar exam. That's the year we formed the firm: Hill, Martin and Robinson. Martin and I - Martin finished in about 1937, and he and I had tried cases around Virginia; particularly outside of our respective bailiwicks, he was in Danville and I was in Richmond. Well, Spot had finished Howard in 1939 with the highest record of any student up to that time and it's still the highest record of any student, up to this time. So, but - So, there was no question in our mind about him being able to pass the bar exam. But, at that time when he passed the bar, I mean when he finished law school, he got - time came for to take the bar exam, he was ill and he couldn't take it. After that, whenever he would decide to take it, he would get psychomatically ill. So, it became a question of how were we going to push him into doing it? With the bar - I mean, with the draft board pushing me I - and his father mentioned the fact that there were some quarters in the old (inaudible) bank building, so I approached Spot and told him, you know, well let's form a firm? He'd take the bar and then I would go into the Army. In the meantime, I worked out a deal with the draft board that they not take me - I was on alert, but someone was to call in a date, and I told them that I couldn't continue to function that way. I would - go to a week - go in - June, we'd just postpone it till June. In the meantime, I told them I was supposed to go into the Army in June. So, that was the way we started out: Hill, Martin and Robinson.
Mr. Gilliam: After the Supreme Court ruled in Brown I, they set off for a separate proceeding, a separate order the question of remedy, and then they came up with "all deliberate speed" -
Mr. Hill: Right.
Brown II
Mr. Gilliam: I think a lot of people think that was the sort of the end of the matter; but, in fact, that was the beginning.
Mr. Hill: That's right.
Mr. Gilliam: Could you describe what happened in the ensuing eight years before that case got back to the Supreme Court?
Mr. Hill: Well, of course, we had gotten back to the Supreme Court before that, before the eight years of that, but not on the school case itself. Once the remedy came out, instead of - Well, even during the first year, between the Brown decision in '54 and the remedy in '55, they had - Virginia had called people all over the South to start working on how they were going to avoid the Brown decision; there never was any intent to support it. But, in the meantime, they started to - thinking in terms of legislation and as you know, they came up with "Massive Resistance" and set up what we know as pupil placement boards. That is, they had a three-man board here in Richmond that places pupils all over the state in schools. The purpose of that was, if any Negro wanted to go to school attended by -predominately by whites people they had to apply. Well anybody, theoretically, everybody had to apply to the pupil placement board. But, of course, nobody did, unless you were going to challenge the segregation. Now, we - family here in Richmond, Dr. Calloway, he had two sons, he and his wife Alice, who later became a member of the School Board. We challenged - we filed suit and - to that she only go to Junior High School over here on Brooklyn Park Boulevard. They had, actually people to - down on their knees, and this appeared in the newspaper, a picture of them measuring with a ruler-tape measure, the number of inches, the difference between the school, their house and the school down on Lee Street, in - the segregated school, and the difference between the school on Brooklyn Park. As it turned out the school - Lee Street was a few inches closer, so they contended, they had to go to the closer school. I'm trying to show you the ridiculous nonsense they went through. But, basically, Prince Edward itself passed its ordinance, a resolution of the school board to abandon the school completely if they had to desegregate. We came back, at them. We tried to get them to desegregate the schools. They wouldn't do it. So, then we went back in front of three-judge court and - No, went back before a single judge court, this time and he ruled against us. So, we went up to the Fourth Circuit and so the Fourth Circuit ruled with us. We came back, and Judge Hutchinson spent over a year working up a da-gone long-winded decision and still refused to desegregate, and we appealed him again. The Supreme Court - I mean, the Court of Appeals reversed him again. This time I carried - wrote out an order. He wouldn't to come to Richmond, so I went down to Mecklenburg, where his home was down in Boynton. He saw me. He had his house; it was a long house with a long front porch. It ran the whole length of the house almost and there was a door there at the end of it. So, when he came to the door and saw me, "Oh have a seat, I'll be right out." So, he went out there and sat down so, we chewed the fat for about five minutes. He said, "Well now, I know damn well that you didn't come down to chew the fat with me. So, what you come here for." So, the I reached in my pocket and said, "Judge I have a little order here I would like you to sign." And, he never even looked at it. Cause he knew what it was for and he refused signed it. We had to eventually get a judge from up the Northern District, Orin Lewis to enter the order that he - He came down in 1960 and entered the order. That shows you how long we had been wrestling with Prince Edward. In the meantime, the legislature had, what it had - one, first suggestion was to have the Garland Committee. Senator Garland was head of a committee and they proposed to change the Virginia law. And that took time, to file suit, and I think the court ruled against them. Then they passed a whole lot of statutes challenging everything the NAACP did, including charging lawyers with running and camping which was - Back in those days they didn't allow lawyers to advertise and those kinds of things. If you solicited clients you could be disbarred and they made all that - they tightened up those laws and passed laws against the NAACP, and so we filed suit against the Commonwealth. I guess, Harrison at that time was the Attorney General, Almond had been elected Governor. In the meantime, one of the other things, they passed a law was that if the court ordered the school to be desegregated, of course they called it integration, the school to be desegregated the Governor was authorized to close the school.
Mr. Gilliam: He was directed to close the school wasn't he?
Mr. Hill: What?
Mr. Gilliam: He was directed to close the school.
Mr. Hill: I said he was authorized. Well you can use the word directed, whichever way you want to do it. S. W. Tucker who was down in Emporia and we got together a team of lawyers headed up by Bob Robert Ming, a very brilliant lawyer, criminal lawyer. Well - he was all an alright lawyer, but he was an excellent criminal lawyer also, to represent Tucker and - then the had - they issued, they had, what was known as the Thompson Commission from the Senate and the Bulwright Committee from the House and they were holding hearings and subpoenaing people suspected of being members of the NAACP, the officials of the NAACP to hearings of one sort or another and tried to obtain the membership lists of the NAACP, and we opposed those we refused to give it them. They cited us in court and we went to court and I'd say. The had us busy with a whole lot of frivolous litigation. And when we did filed, we filed suits, we had a suit against Arlington County, we had a pair of suits against the pupil placement board where people had applied. I remember one suit; we had filed a suit against the Atlantic Coast Line. Oh, I knew something I intend to tell you. [cough] We - when I went into the Army in 1943 there was a young lady went down, who lived in Gloucester County. She was living in Baltimore; she came down to visit her mother one weekend. She wasn't feeling well so she started back home. The bus crowded, she was on a Trialway bus, the bus filled up and they wanted her to get up and give her seat to a white man, and she refused. They dragged her off the bus and charged her with resisting arrest, violation of segregation laws and all sort of stuff. Irene Morgan was her name and I handled her case throughout the Virginia courts. In the courts they convicted her of violating the law in Middlesex County, that's where it happened. In Middlesex - through the Middlesex Courts and onto what was then known as the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals, which was our highest court; and then when it got to the Supreme Court, Spot had not been practicing long enough to - this was in 19 -by 1954, he hadn't been practicing long enough to be a member of the Supreme Court so Thurgood argued the case of Irene Morgan versus the Commonwealth of Virginia in the Supreme Court. We got the decision in 1945, but the Supreme Court didn't dodge the issue in Plessy and charged - found the Virginia law unconstitutional on grounds that is was a burden on commerce, rather than challenging the Separate but Equal doctrine. And - but, Irene Morgan was a very private person and she refused to stand as a symbol like Rosa Parks eventually did fifteen years later. But the first case setting aside that kind of thing was a Virginia case - Irene Morgan. In the meantime, the people would refused to move in - on the trains and we had scores of cases come down - they would arrest them, they would go through police court, they would be convicted. We'd appeal to the Circuit Court and Judge Ingum would continue the case, continue too and that was the end of it. And one day I asked him, "Judge why don't you go on and decide one of these cases so that we can carry it on up." And he said, "Oliver you know and I know that one of these days the Supreme Court will rule the thing unconstitutional, but they are not going to reverse me." [laughter] And that's the reason we had a whole flock of cases, so we finally got - ended up with a case. It came - developed but they didn't arrest the man until he got down to Emporia. I don't know what happened in Richmond. But, anyways they arrested him in Emporia and when it came up for trial he got Martin to represent him. For some reason they, I don't know why, they dismissed the suit- asked that the suit be dismissed and the railroad paid the court costs. All right, so then Martin filed a civil suit charging false arrest and all this stuff and so, that sort of thing. This suit came to - against Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, he came to trial and for some reason Martin had to be out of town the day of that first hearing; and Spot and I went down to argue the motion, whatever the motion was, we argued the motion and the Judge said, "Well alright then, now we'll go on to trial." And I tried to tell him that certainly wasn't my understanding, but he insisted. So, we got it continued until after lunch, two o'clock. In the meantime we called our client and got him up here from down, he was down somewhere in North Carolina. He was a principal of a school down there. We got him up here and we - and 2 o'clock we started the trial. I called a conductor as a first witness and kept him on the stand until my client got up there. [laughter] By that time it was almost time for close up for the evening. What it means, what I'm getting at is we caught falshoods as we continued charged the jury and as a consequence the jury went out and came back with a verdict for the defendant, the railroad. We appealed it to the Fourth Circuit. The Fourth Circuit ruled with us, reversed it and came back for another trial. This time we actually tried the case. Everybody afraid now, we'd been in the case for two or three days, cause the case last three or four days. And I get a call one night in the middle of the trial from Judge Brian, up in Alexandria, saying that the Pupil Placement Board had filed a motion in his court and it was coming up [cough] next morning and he thought I ought to be up there. Well, I told him I was going to miss the trial down here, and well he said, "Aren't the other members of your firm involved?" Yeah, "How come they can't try it?" He insisted, so all right, I get up the next morning and caught a plane and went up to Alexandria and we go to court. They argued and we argued, I mean I argued and he ruled with me and then stayed the mandate of his court, That means - the mandate was sealed while they appealed, so we get no benefit from it. That was a hot baby, because how do - I almost told him that the night before when he called me on the phone, but he insisted that I come up here. I figured he was going to do something. That kind of activity went on all along. So, those were the kinds of things - instead of doing something positive and working to desegregate the schools, we were busy challenging all these crazy laws they were passing and hearings that they were holding.
Mr. Gilliam: Mr. Hill, if I could ask -
Mr. Hill: It so happened that the week before the Brown decision in '54, the fund for the Republic had given some - what do you call that - Southern Regional Council a large fund and they had engaged a group of us. He has a sociology department at North Carolina, Charles Johnson, who was president at Fiske University, two or three people from the General Education Fund, a - young man who was Vice President of that big store down there in Dallas, Marcus Niemann, another economist named Hammer, a -another women, she was head of the Urban League in Atlanta. I can't think of her name right this second, and a guy who was running for Congress on the Democratic ticket. Maybe you would know it if I could recall it. He recently served on a Civil Rights Commission. But, he turned against us there, eventually. So, as far as affirmative action is concerned. But uh-
Mr. Gilliam: Could I ask you one more -
Mr. Hill: What I'm saying is - We spent a week down in Williamsburg working up projects, proposals for - to went with the public to ease in desegregation. But it came with all this mess, I don't remember even, whether the counselor wrote up herself or not. Go ahead, you started asking a question.
Barbara Johns
Mr. Gilliam: I was going to ask you another question about Barbara Johns?
Mr. Hill: Okay.
Mr. Gilliam: Did you know Barbara Johns?
Mr. Hill: I had never seen her, until we went to the school. I knew her uncle, the Reverend Vernon Johns. He was a fiery Baptist minister. She inherited some of his traits. They did a documentary on him in recent years. I never did see it, but appeared on the screen. Did you hear about it?
Mr. Gilliam: I did not hear about it.
Mr. Hill: Yeah, well it's around somewhere. But, he's really well known. And I was going to say, he was down at the Dexter Baptist Church, the pastor for five years preceding Martin Luther King going down there.
Mr. Gilliam: Did you stay in touch with Barbara Johns after that initial meeting? Did you -
Mr. Hill: I didn't. Spot did for a while. Spot stayed in touch with Irene Morgan and Barbara Johns.
Mr. Gilliam: Barbara Johns was sixteen, and from what I understand, she was taking care of her brothers and sisters. Her parents were working out of town, or were just not around very much. Did you know anything about her family situation?
Mr. Hill: No, all I knew was that she was Vernon Johns' niece. That's all I knew about her.
Mr. Gilliam: What did she say, when she called you on the phone. What were her first words?
Mr. Hill: [laughter] Remember now this is fifty-some years ago. I don't remember what her first words were. But, anyway, the substance of it was that they had gone out on strike that day. She may have asked if I had heard it. I had not heard it, and I suspect that was what - had we heard that they had gone out on strike to demonstrate against the conditions of the school. She didn't need to discuss to much of that with me because I was quite familiar with the situation, having gone down there and appeared before the school board several times about those conditions down there. So, but anyway, after she spoke and explained what they had done. I congratulated her and told that we had already filed a suit in Clarendon County, South Carolina and that all we needed was one suit to establish the precedent and to go on back to school. She pleaded so hard and so long that I said well, " We are coming through Farmville Wednesday we'll leave earlier and enough time to stop and talk to you then, and that's - then we hung up; and then the rest of it was when we met them -on our way down there, we were of unanimously of the opinion to tell them to go on back to school. But we got down there and saw the high morale and all; we just didn't have the heart to do it. They wanted to file suit, but I said - we told them that we had changed the policy and if their parents would back them we would support them. And as I say, you know, you've heard the rest of it.
Mr. Gilliam: Well, this has been so helpful. It's been very helpful.
Mr. Mills: I've got one question one question for you sir.
Mr. Gilliam: Turn, turn, look please.
Mr. Mills: Did he ever suspect that this case would do what it did?
Mr. Gilliam: At the time you had the second meeting, with all of the parents and you agreed to take the case, did you guess where it would? Did you guess that it would go to the Supreme Court?
Federal Judges
Mr. Hill: Oh, heck yeah. We never cared lest we get a decision at any stage short of the Supreme Court. Every time we went to court, we went to court determined to prepare a record that would compel the Supreme Court to rule in our favor. That was always our objective. We never expected to win any cases in the lower court. It so, happened that we had a very good Fourth Circuit in those days, had John Parker was the Chief Justice, and the funny part was, you see this was the end of the thirties. The first time I appeared before him was the end of the thirties and at the beginning of the thirties John Parker had been a candidate for - had been nominated for the Supreme Court. And the NAACP along with other several labor unions fought it so vigorously that they were able to defeat his nomination in the Senate. But, he was still fairly decent. Of course, he was like a whole lot of them. He was - when it came down to Negro children going to white schools, children with white skin children, he could find all kinds of reasons to avoid it too. But the second man on the bench was, uh -
Mr. Gilliam: Sobeloff, Sobeloff?
Mr. Hill: I had his name -
Mr. Gilliam: Sobeloff.
Mr. Hill: No, No the second man was a man from Early that time was Soper. S-O-P-E-R-
Mr. Gilliam: Oh yeah.
Mr. Hill: And then the other guy was the former Dean of the Law School at Virginia Union. I mean the University of Virginia. [cough] I had his name when I called John Parker. Now, it left me that fast. But, anyways, he was rather eccentric; he was a quart or a whole lot of Greek. But, anyway, generally speaking the court was fairly liberal for its time, very liberal for its time. And on top of that it was a very congenial court. We had great success with them, Hutchinson, the only time I recall us loosing a case on the Fourth Circuit was a private case involving the Southern League Life Insurance Company, and it was all Negro on both sides.
Mr. Gilliam: Why were the schools such a sensitive issues for the whites?
Mr. Hill: I don't know. As I say, there wasn't a finer Judge than Hutchinson; Sterling Hutchinson was his full name. We filed suit against Gloucester County, they came in and claimed that they didn't have any money. And for them to do - to equalize things they would need a bond issue. The court continued the matter and gave them the opportunity to go to the board of supervisors to have a bond issue. Okay, they went to the Board of Supervisors and the Board of Supervisors authorized the bond issue. Now, when it comes time for people to vote on it. The school Board members floated around the county and passed the word to vote against the bond issue. And that's what happened. We were able to get enough evidence about it wo we filed a motion for further relief and hauled them back in court and put them on the stand and established the fact that that is what they had done. The court, they couldn't deny it, we had proof - other evidence that they had did it. We had established proof and they admitted it. Judge Sterling Hutchinson back in the late '40s fined them $500 each and ordered them to pay it out of their pocket and not use public funds. He was a fine man as far as a good judge was concerned. He was also, in the eyes of the law and accepted it. Until we got to the question of Negro children with white he just wouldn't do it. I don't think I told you, in the Corbin case. That was over in Western Virginia. The judge was down in Lynchburg; it will take me a few minutes to think of his name. But anyway, after we filed suit for further relief, we went up to the Court of Appeals. The Court of Appeals reveres it, it came back; and at the hearing he was very emphatic that he was not going to do it. He hadn't done thing, we set up a meeting in his office in Lynchburg. I pointed out to him. He ordered us to do something and further relief had not been carried out, so he said well I've done all I can do. And I said, well, Judge there is something else you can do and he said what. I said you can order them to desegregate the schools order them to let Negroes in the school. He got all red in the face and said, "I will not do it. I will not do it." I thought the man was going to have a stroke. And at the hearing he was very emphatic that he was not going to do it.

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