ROANOKE (WSLS 10) – The story of one Virginia couple whose love for one another changed history is being shown on the big screen nationwide including the Grandin Theatre.
“Loving” tells the story of Mildred and Richard Loving. He was white, she was black and Native American. Decades ago, their marriage was against the law in Virginia and several other states. Their love story broke barriers for interracial couples.
In 1958, the couple married in Washington, D.C. where it was legal, but returned home to Virginia and were arrested. A judge sentenced the couple to prison unless they left the commonwealth for 25 years. They did, but returned to the state five years later and were jailed again. Eventually their case went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court where the court ruled the ban on interracial marriage unconstitutional.
That 1967 decision paved the way for others to marry who they love regardless of race.
“The bottom-line, if you love someone it does not matter the color of your skin,” said Pamela Casey.
Pamela and Corwin Casey’s love story begins in 1980 when Corwin was an activities director at a children’s home in North Carolina. Pamela said they met on her first day. She arrived as a volunteer from her church in Ohio.
“I could feel the sincerity and genuineness in her,” said Corwin. She was a person that made me laugh”.
In the beginning, they were just coworkers who became good friends and later developed feelings for each other.
“I literally felt like this is the person I could spend the rest of my life with,” said Corwin. “Color did not enter the picture.”
The Caseys said at that time race wasn’t a factor for them and they were unaware the Loving’s story. When the Caseys were dating in the 1980s, it had been just over a decade since the Loving case broke barriers for interracial marriage.
Mildred and Richard’s story has become the focus of films and books like the two written by Virginia Tech Professor Peter Wallenstein. Wallenstein said there were other interracial relationships at that time, but elements of the Loving case were unique.
“You see the horror of being intruded upon, the law reaches in grabs you out of bed and drags you off to jail,” said Wallenstein.
By the 80s, when the Casey were dating, laws had changed, but some societal views remained. Pamela said their mixed-race romance drew negative attention at work.
“We were both called into the office and the executive director of the children’s home told us he felt like it was a bad example for the children and that he was giving me 30 days to leave” she said.
Pamela called that experience humiliating, but said it was one of the few hurtful moments the couple shared.
“I can’t say we experienced anything extremely negative, we of course, got a lot of stares because it was not as common as it is now,” continued Pamela.
By 1984, nearly 17 years after the Loving’s case, Pamela and Corwin were married. Looking back, the Caseys remember the good times. They said they believe they faced many of the same obstacles of any marriage, although they say some cultural differences did come into play such as which church to attend.
“It was not a huge issue we knew we were going to worship together. In our home, on Sunday, whenever people worship,” said Cowin. “We knew that we were going to live for God.”
The couple said it was faith, strong values and love for each other that guided their marriage over the years and blessed them with two children. The Caseys recognize it was the Lovings who paved the way for their life together. They hope their story and others like it help other couples.
“If one person can be helped with this, that one person can be a part of the network that can help another one and another one,” Corwin said.
“Loving” is now playing in theaters.