The Lovings on Film

Published:January 20, 2012 by Brendan Wolfe

The Daily Mail has reprinted several photographs of Richard and Mildred Loving taken for Life magazine by Grey Villet while the couple fought in the courts for recognition of their marriage. The United States Supreme Court, in Loving v. Virginia, struck down Virginia’s anti-miscegenation law.

Twenty images show the tenderness and family support enjoyed by Mildred and Richard and their three children, Peggy, Sidney and Donald.

The children, unaware of the struggles their parents face, are captured by Villet as blissfully happy as they play in the fields near their Virginia home or share secrets with their parents on the couch.

Their parents, caught sharing a kiss on their front porch, appear more worry-stricken.

Taking advantage of the same wonderful images, Humanities magazine tells the story of the Lovings—their marriage and their court case. It’s a lovely piece written by the encyclopedia’s very own Donna Lucey:

They were young, they were in love, they got married. Simple. But this was Virginia in 1958 and nothing was simple.

The groom, twenty-four-year-old Richard Loving, was your average Joe—a country guy who loved music and drag racing on weekends. He had a knack for fine-tuning engines and won trophy after trophy for his souped-up cars. With his pale eyes, his blond buzz cut, his powerful physique, his face and arms weathered from the elements, he looked like a farmer—or an army sergeant. He worked in construction doing hard physical labor—laying bricks, building houses. A man of few words, Richard knew one thing and was ready to profess it: He loved his wife, Mildred.

And small wonder. A willowy eighteen-year-old with large, liquid brown eyes and a beatific smile that radiated warmth, Mildred moved with uncommon grace. She was so skinny that she had earned the nickname “Stringbean,” which Richard affectionately shortened to “Bean.” They complemented each other: While he was taciturn, and, in public, might appear even a bit brusque, she was gentle and soft-spoken—and expressed herself directly, from the heart. They seemed the perfect couple but for one small detail: her coffee-colored skin. She was, in the fiercely-protected racial borderland of Virginia, a “colored” woman, which made her off-limits as a marriage partner for Richard in the eyes of the law.

IMAGES: Top: The Lovings share a kiss in April 1965, King and Queen County; middle: the Loving children, Peggy, Sidney, and Donald, in April 1965, King and Queen County; bottom: Richard Loving, their daughter Peggy, Mildred’s sister Garnet, and Richard’s mother Lola, on the porch of Mildred’s mother’s house, April 1965, Caroline County