Bernard Cohen, Lawyer Who Argued Loving V. Virginia Case, Dies At 86 : NPR

  

Category:  News & Politics

Via:  sandy-2021492  •  2 weeks ago  •  4 comments

By:   NPR. org

Bernard Cohen, Lawyer Who Argued Loving V. Virginia Case, Dies At 86 : NPR
Cohen was just a few years out of law school when the ACLU asked if he would take on the case of Richard and Mildred Loving — an interracial couple whose marriage was illegal in their home state.

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Laurel Wamsley

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Bernard Cohen in a 1970s campaign poster when he ran for the Virginia House of Delegates. As a lawyer he successfully argued the Supreme Court case that established the legality of interracial marriage. He died this week at age 86. Cohen family hide caption

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Bernard Cohen in a 1970s campaign poster when he ran for the Virginia House of Delegates. As a lawyer he successfully argued the Supreme Court case that established the legality of interracial marriage. He died this week at age 86.

Cohen family

Bernard Cohen, who as a young lawyer successfully argued the Supreme Court case that struck down Virginia's ban on interracial marriages, has died at age 86.

Cohen died Monday in Fredericksburg, Va. The cause was Parkinson's disease, his family told NPR.

Cohen was an attorney in Alexandria, Va., just a few years out of law school when the American Civil Liberties Union, where he was a volunteer, asked if he would take on the case of Richard and Mildred Loving.

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Mildred Loving and her husband Richard Loving in 1965. Bernard Cohen, who successfully challenged a Virginia law banning interracial marriage and later went on to a successful political career as a Virginia state legislator, has died at age 86. AP hide caption

Mildred Loving and her husband Richard Loving in 1965. Bernard Cohen, who successfully challenged a Virginia law banning interracial marriage and later went on to a successful political career as a Virginia state legislator, has died at age 86.

AP

Mildred was Black and Native American, and Richard was white. They had married in 1958 in Washington, D.C., where interracial marriage was legal. But on returning home to Virginia, they were arrested, jailed and barred from the state for 25 years for violating the state's Racial Integrity Act.

Cohen took the case, working with co-counsel Philip Hirschkop, and the case went to the highest court in the land. He argued the Lovings and their children had the right to feel protected under the law just like any other family.

"And that is the right of Richard and Mildred Loving to wake up in the morning or to go to sleep at night knowing that the sheriff will not be knocking on their door or shining a light in their face in the privacy of their bedroom for illicit co-habitation," he told the court.

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Law


'Illicit Cohabitation': Listen To 6 Stunning Moments From Loving V. Virginia


The Supreme Court's unanimous 1967 ruling in Loving v. Virginia overturned the couple's conviction - and nullified anti-miscegenation laws in Virginia and more than a dozen other states. Interracial marriage was now legal in every state in the union.

Rae Cohen, Bernard's wife of 61 years, remembers events that suggested not everyone in Alexandria was happy with her husband's role in the case.

"There were a couple little incidents," she says. "We lived in a house that didn't have a garage. I found sugar in my gasoline tank one morning."

"And some nasty phone calls. Your mind wants to forget these things," she says with a laugh.

The Cohens kept in touch with the Lovings after the case, enjoying visits with Mildred until her death in 2008.

"They were very simple people, who were not interested in winning any civil rights principle," Bernard Cohen said of the Lovings in a 2007 interview with NPR.

"They just were in love with one another and wanted the right to live together as husband and wife in Virginia, without any interference from officialdom. When I told Richard that this case was, in all likelihood, going to go to the Supreme Court of the United States, he became wide-eyed and his jaw dropped," he remembered.

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Memorable Moments 2007


Loving Decision: 40 Years of Legal Interracial Unions


Bernard Sol Cohen was born in Brooklyn in 1934. He graduated from the City College of New York in 1956 with an economics degree, and from Georgetown Law School four years later. In addition to his wife, he is survived by his children Bennett and Karen, as well as three grandchildren.

From 1980 to 1996, Cohen served in the Virginia House of Delegates, as a Democrat representing Alexandria. He pushed for right-to-die legislation, commuter rail in the state, and a ban on smoking indoors in public places. He wasn't able to get through a ban on smoking in restaurants, his daughter Karen recalls, but managed to get the General Assembly to ban smoking in elevators.

He left the state assembly in 1996 when he decided it had become too negative, his daughter says.

"He had Republican friends and Republican colleagues who he respected and admired and they respected and admired him," says Karen Cohen. "And he always felt that [you can have] proper polite civil discourse and you can disagree, but there was never any need to be nasty."

His family says that since his death, there has been an outpouring of remembrances and gratitude.

Some of those messages have been from strangers who have interracial marriages of their own - and say they celebrate "Loving Day" each year on June 12.


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sandy-2021492
1  seeder  sandy-2021492    2 weeks ago
He left the state assembly in 1996 when he decided it had become too negative, his daughter says. "He had Republican friends and Republican colleagues who he respected and admired and they respected and admired him," says Karen Cohen. "And he always felt that [you can have] proper polite civil discourse and you can disagree, but there was never any need to be nasty."
 
 
 
Buzz of the Orient
2  Buzz of the Orient    2 weeks ago

Bravo to his memory and to the memory of his accomplishment.  I think that racial intermarriage strengthens the progeny, and therefore is a benefit to the human race.  Of course it should be obvious that I am an advocate of it. 

 
 
 
Kavika
3  Kavika     2 weeks ago

RIP Bernard. 

 
 
 
Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom
4  Sister Mary Agnes Ample Bottom    2 weeks ago

What a legacy he left behind.

 
 
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