W & L’s Oliver White Hill House Expands Legal Help for Under Served Residents

The Oliver White Hill House on dedication day last Spring.
The Oliver White Hill House on dedication day last Spring.

This fall marks the one-year anniversary of services provided by the Oliver White Hill House – Washington & Lee’s community law center located in Roanoke.  In May of this year, the center officially began operating out of the childhood home of Civil Rights leader, Oliver White Hill. The mission of the center is to carry out the vision of its namesake by addressing the tragic effects of urban poverty through fair and equal justice.

“The objective is to expand access to legal services in Roanoke,” said Howard Highland, W & L Oliver White Hill Fellow.  “It’s an opportunity for attorneys focused in the area of civil rights to better serve their clients by gaining insight into their experience.”

The Oliver White Hill Foundation was established in 2000 and is comprised of key leaders in the local legal community. Their goal is to honor Hill’s legacy by supporting the education of lawyers trained in the field of civil rights and civil liberties.  After several years of raising funds to purchase and renovate the facility located at 401 Gilmer Street in Roanoke, the foundation partnered with the W&L law school last year, allowing them to lease the house for $1 a year.

Highland and Anthony Segura, two recent graduates of W & L law school, serve as the center’s onsite fellows, overseeing daily operations and helping identify additional community needs.

“A team of third-year law students are provided with the opportunity to gain practical experience while offering a great service to the community,” said Highland.  Mentors and volunteer attorneys from the Roanoke Bar Association and W & L law school faculty provide additional guidance and support.

The initial months have been spent focusing on assisting clients, who primarily come as referrals from Blue Ridge Legal Services, in the area of elder law including advanced planning and securing government benefits.  Additionally, the center works with Virginia CARES to assist ex-offenders with restoration of civil rights.  Most recently, the center has forged a partnership with Christine Poarch, a local attorney who has been instrumental in helping area residents with immigration issues.

“It’s an area of great need in this community,” said Highland.  “It’s the next practical step to making good happen.”

Hill was a classmate of Thurgood Marshall at Howard University, and was one of five lawyers who argued the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision in which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that segregated schools were unconstitutional.  He spent his childhood years in Roanoke, returning home after law school – opening his law firm in 1934.  He died in 2007, at the age of 100.

By Stephanie Koehler
[email protected]

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -

Latest Articles

- Advertisement -

Related Articles