Mr. Cohen acknowledged that he was not particularly well versed in the relevant areas of law. He faced other obstacles as well, not the least of which was Judge Bazile, whose rulings in the case included this oft-cited declaration: “Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, Malay and red, and He placed them on separate continents, and but for the interference with His arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages.”
He began by filing a motion to set aside the sentence, but Judge Bazile took no action on it for months; the Lovings became concerned that they’d been forgotten. But in 1964 a law professor introduced Mr. Cohen to Mr. Hirschkop, who had only recently graduated from law school but knew civil rights litigation. He helped steer the case onto a path that eventually brought it to the Supreme Court, where, Mr. Hirschkop said in a phone interview, he argued that the Virginia law was a violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution and Mr. Cohen argued that it was also a due process violation.
“Under our Constitution,” Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote in finding in their favor, “the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual, and cannot be infringed by the State.”
Bernard Sol Cohen was born on Jan. 17, 1934, in Brooklyn. His father, Benjamin, was a furrier, and his mother, Fannie (Davidson) Cohen, was a homemaker.
He grew up in Brooklyn and graduated from the City College of New York in 1956 with a degree in economics. He graduated from Georgetown Law School in 1960.
Bennett Cohen said that, after the Loving case, his father did a lot of work in environmental law. In one case, he said, “the Jewish boy from Brooklyn represented some Christmas tree farmers whose whole crop of Christmas trees was destroyed by acid rain.” That lawsuit, he said, forced nearby power plants to reduce their pollution.
From 1980 to 1996, Mr. Cohen served in the Virginia House of Delegates, where among his accomplishments were measures that restricted smoking — a hard sell in a tobacco state like Virginia. Over the years, the story of the Loving case was told in a 1996 Showtime movie; the 2011 HBO documentary “The Loving Story,” directed by Nancy Buirski; and the 2016 feature film “Loving,” based in part on that documentary.