RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – Standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial 50 years ago today, stood a Richmonder in the vanguard of the civil rights. Oliver Hill, Sr., the legendary attorney who fought segregation, was one of the 250,000 people marching on Washington on August 28, 1963.
Oliver Hill, Jr., who was 14-years old in 1963, vividly recalled his father Oliver, Sr. who was emotionally moved by what he witnessed in Washington standing on the Lincoln Memorial just hours earlier.
“I can remember him coming home that evening and going on and on about this speech he just heard and talking about it,” Hill, Jr. said. “It did make a deep impact on him. It really was a watershed event.”
The echoes of Dr. Martin Luther King’s speech lived on in the Hill household long after the march ended. A vinyl LP recording of King’s speech pushed the Temptations and other Motown artists aside.
“You were standing around with your microphone lip-synching to those records, but when we got those records we started lip-synching to Martin Luther King Jr.’s speech,” Hill, Jr. said.
As a civil rights attorney, Hill, Sr. worked to achieve equality in the classroom and housing for African-Americans. Hill, Jr. said his father felt his work was validated during the March on Washington, but by no means did he think the struggles were over.
“I think that really made an impression on him that a lot of his efforts in the last years were coming to fruition,” Hill, Jr. said.
Oliver Hill, Sr. died in 2007 at the age of 100.
His son said if his father were still living he’d be rolling up his sleeves fighting for equality including gay rights and women’s issues.
“He was standing ready to fight anything that was dividing humanity,” Hill, Jr. said.
Hill, Jr. said he is still motivated by his late-father and the words spoken a half century ago by another civil rights icon, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
“It was almost musical. The cadence that King had. He was certainly a great orator and inspiring,” Hill, Jr. said. “Yeah that was especially inspiring at the he end. ‘Free at last. Free at last. Thank God almighty we’re free at last.”
Hill, Jr. said his dad would be impressed with how much progress the nation has made.
“He would certainly have to acknowledge that a lot has changed in the last 50 years and African-American president was unthinkable in 1963,” he said.