Roanoke honors civil rights attorney Oliver Hill

Published: Nov. 30, 2018 at 7:47 PM EST
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Oliver Hill was born in Richmond, but the civil rights attorney considered Roanoke his childhood home.

A Virginia historic marker approved in 2008 was finally unveiled Friday outside the house on Gilmer Avenue where he grew up.

Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea also announced that members of City Council plan to name the city courthouse in Hill's honor.

"Here in southwest Virginia where he grew up, and formed his values, we want to recognize him in a great way," Lea told reporters after the ceremony.

Roanoke Times editorial writer Dwayne Yancey discovered the marker approved ten years ago was never installed. And former Roanoke Mayor Nelson Harris raised the money to make it happen in just six hours.

Oliver Hill's son attended the ceremony Friday afternoon.

"We're very proud of my father. We're very appreciative of Roanoke for giving him this honor," Oliver HIll Jr. said in an interview. "And on a deeper level I think it's important, because this is getting the story out, of people who might not have been in the history books. And I think that's going to be an important move forward in race relations in this country, hearing each other's stories."

Oliver HIll won his first civil rights case in 1940.

By the early '50s, he and other attorneys were fighting segregation in Prince Edward County, one of the cases that would lead them to the Supreme Court and the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education decision.

The home where Hill lived was renovated several years ago. Today, it houses a mentoring program coordinated by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Virginia.