POD_0907_Lester Banks

Oliver Hill (left) and Spottswood Robinson III (second from right) were among the NAACP delegates waiting to appear before a General Assembly committee in February 1957 that was conducting an investigation into the group’s activities. The other delegates were, from left, W. Lester Banks, Thurgood Marshall and Otto L. Tucker.

This Thursday, two Virginia legal titans will finally receive long-overdue recognition in Richmond. Oliver Hill and Spottswood Robinson III, African American lawyers who helped dismember segregation, will be honored with the unveiling of historical markers outside the federal courthouse at 1100 Bank St. The ceremony is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and will include remarks by Gov. Ralph Northam.

As Margaret Edds, the author of “We Face the Dawn: Oliver Hill, Spottswood Robinson, and the Legal Team that Dismantled Jim Crow,” wrote in a Sunday Commentary column, “The quality and impact of Hill and Robinson’s lives place them in the highest echelon of deserving Virginians” for this honor.

They became “pivotal members” of a small group of lawyers, connected through the Howard University School of Law and the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, “who conceived and executed the legal strategies that led to the demise of Jim Crow segregation,” wrote Edds, a Richmond-based author and former journalist. They were at the heart of the legal team in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case, which resulted in the U.S. Supreme Court striking down the repugnant doctrine of “separate but equal” in 1954.

The markers could have been placed in Jackson Ward, where their law office was located. But as Edds pointed out, the decision by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources to locate them outside the courthouse “speaks to the universality of their legacies.” Hill and Robinson rightfully belong in the pantheon of legal legends.

—Pamela Stallsmith

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