Roanoke honors civil rights attorney Oliver Hill with dedication, planned courthouse renaming

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A dedication ceremony was held Friday afternoon to honor a Roanoke civil rights attorney.

The ceremony was held at the Oliver Hill House to dedicate a marker honoring Oliver Hill. Hill was a Roanoke native and a civil rights attorney.

At the ceremony Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea, Sr. said he plans to put forward a resolution to rename the courthouse in Roanoke after him. 

“We finally got here, we are finally here. It’s a great day, we’ve done it and I’m proud of it and everybody in this valley of what’s going to take place here,” said Roanoke Mayor Sherman Lea, Sr. 

“This man who did so much to change the course of history and our country made a difference is going to be recognized in our city.”

According to the marker that was dedicated Friday, Oliver White Hill Sr. was born in 1907 and died in 2007 at age 100. 

He was a Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree and worked to dismantle Jim Crow laws in the United States.

He had a seven-decade career as a civil rights attorney and “challenged inequities in education, employment, and public facilities.” 

Hill argued Davis v. Prince Edward County, which was one of four cases consolidated into the 1954 U.S. Supreme Court decision Brown v. Board. 

Speakers at the dedication ceremony included Mayor Sherman Lea; Former Mayor Nelson Harris; Erin Ashwell, a Virginia Board of Historic Resources member who will speak on behalf of the Department of Historic Resources; and Ramona Taylor, President of The Oliver White Hill Foundation, who spoke on behalf of the Foundation.

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