(CBS) Oliver W. Hill, a civil rights lawyer who was at the front of the legal effort that desegregated public schools, has died at age 100, a family friend said.
Hill died peacefully at his home during breakfast, said Joseph Morrissey, a friend of the Hill family.
In 1954, he was part of a series of lawsuits against racially segregated public schools that became the Brown v. Board of Education decision, which changed America's society and touched off a wrenching period for the nation.
In 1940, Hill won his first civil rights case in Virginia, one that required equal pay for black and white teachers.
Eight years later, he was the first black elected to Richmond's City Council since Reconstruction. A lawsuit argued by Hill in 1951 on behalf of high school students protesting deplorable conditions of their Farmville high school became one of five cases decided under the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark Brown v. Board of Education ruling.
He graduated second in his class from Howard University Law School in 1933, behind his classmate and longtime friend, Thurgood Marshall.
Though blind and confined to a wheelchair in recent years, Hill remained active in social and civil rights causes. In 1999, he received the President Medal of Freedom, the nation's highest civilian honor, from President Clinton.
Two years ago, a renovated 100-year-old building adjacent to the state Capitol was renamed in Hill's honor. In May, he greeted Queen Elizabeth II during her visit to the state Capitol to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the founding of Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America.
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