This will be both a loving post and an angry post. And it will likely incite some very angry responses in return. I am prepared for that.
Mildred Loving died in May at the age of 68. Most of my readers are too young to remember that miscegenation was a crime even into the late 1960s in many parts of the United States, and the Lovings' case - Richard was a white man, and Mildred was a black woman - was the case which overturned all miscegenation laws in the country in 1967. Yes. Even after all the voting rights laws and all the other laws for civil rights in this country, it was still illegal for a black person and a white person to express their love for one another, particularly in most of the South. Heaven forbid they wanted to get married.
Loving v the Commonwealth of Virginia was a landmark case, argued by a very young attorney (he was 28 at the time) before the Supreme Court. The Lovings weren't even there; they simply wanted to be left alone to live in the love they had found together.
Horribly, their romance was short-lived; in 1975, they were hit by a drunk driver while driving down a country road and Richard was killed. Mildred lost an eye, and extreme poverty soon followed.
This is where I get angry.
Where were civil rights groups? Where were charities? Where were any groups willing to come forward and quietly help this woman who had made such a difference in so many people's lives?
I know she wanted to live a peaceful, gentle, quiet life. That much is certain.
But there could have been help.
When the movie Mr. and Mrs. Loving came out in 1996 (a terrific movie, by the way - see it if you can), the proceeds of the movie went to help Mildred side her home and get needed dental work. That's all the proceeds could pay for... nothing more. Nobody else came forward to help. I suspect everybody assumed she was doing well...
But when Mildred died in May, hers was not a peaceful death. She had terrible, debilitating arthritis without good relief... and she labored greatly as she passed. Bernard Cohen, the Lovings' attorney in the Supreme Court case, saw her the day she died and did not recognize her; she had lived a hard, hard life. She resided in the same cinder-block house Richard had built - perhaps out of sentimental reasons, perhaps because she had no other choice... the fact remains she lived in abject poverty.
Where were the civil rights groups? Where were the charities? Where were any groups willing to come forward and quietly help this woman who had made such a difference in so many people's lives?
Mildred died in May. I mourn her passing. But I am angry. Angry beyond kind words right now - the sort of kind words Mildred might have wanted - because she could have had a decent life... if only decent people had cared.
The Washington Post was the source for much of the material in this post.