Oliver W. Hill was a civil rights activist and African American attorney. Hill and his colleagues filed more legal challenges to segregation as the lead attorney for the Virginia State Conference of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).
Hill was born in the city of Richmond, Virginia. William Henry White Jr., Hill’s father, abandoned his mother Olivia Lewis White Hill shortly after Hill was born. Oliver was raised by his maternal grandmother and aunt because his father worked at the Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Virginia during the spring and fall seasons, and at a related resort in Bermuda during the winter.
Oliver’s mother, Olivia Hill, returned to Richmond for her mother’s funeral when he was six years old, and introduced him to her new husband, Joseph Cartwright Hill.
Hill moved to Washington, D.C., with his mother and stepfather in 1916, where he worked at the Navy Yard during World War I. Oliver was in sixth grade, but he disliked the D.C. elementary school where he had spent a semester.
He was allowed to return to his foster parents, the Pentecosts, in Roanoke, Virginia. Hill moved to Washington D.C. in 1923 to attend (and graduate from) Dunbar High School, which at the time may have provided the best education available to black children in the country.
Oliver attended Howard Law School after finishing his undergraduate studies in 1930. Although they were leaders of the rival Omega Psi Phi and Alpha Phi Alpha fraternities, Hill was a classmate and close friend of future Supreme Court Associate Justice Thurgood Marshall. Both studied under Charles Hamilton Houston, the chief architect of legal challenges to Jim Crow laws. In 1933, Marshall graduated first in his law school class, and Oliver White Hill came in second.