In 1965, after the passage of the Voting Rights Act, the number of African-American voters increased dramatically in Richmond, Virginia. In response to African Americans becoming a majority of the city’s registered voters, the nearly all-white city council decided to annex an adjoining suburb that was 97 percent white, adding 44,000 white voters to the city. The annexation reduced Richmond’s black population from 52 percent to 42 percent. “I did what I did in reference to the [annexation] because the niggers are not qualified to run the city of Richmond,” said Richmond Mayor Phil Bagley.
After an outcry, civil-rights activists sued the city, the Department of Justice objected under the VRA, and the Supreme Court froze Richmond’s municipal elections. The DOJ and the federal courts forced Richmond to draw districts for the city council that would finally give black candidates fair representation and African Americans gained a majority of the city council in 1977. The council elected Henry Marsh, a civil-rights lawyer, as the city’s first black mayor.
When Tim Kaine moved to Richmond after graduating from Harvard Law School, he sought a job with Marsh’s law farm. Kaine followed a similar path as his ticket mate Hillary Clinton, who worked for the Children’s Defense Fund after she graduated from Yale Law School. “He was interested in being a civil rights lawyer,” Marsh told Newsweek. “I couldn’t afford him, so I referred him to another law firm that had more resources.”
Kaine specialized in housing-discrimination cases—his biggest achievement was winning a $26 million lawsuit against Nationwide Insurance for refusing to offer insurance to black homeowners in majority-black neighborhoods—a discriminatory practice known as redlining. Kaine’s civil-rights experience stands in stark contrast to that of Donald Trump, who was sued by the Justice Department in 1973 for refusing to rent to black tenants. “While Tim was taking on housing discrimination and homelessness, Trump was denying apartments to people who were African-American,” Clinton said on Saturday when she introduced Kaine in Miami.
Kaine joined a mostly black Catholic church in Richmond and sent his kids to integrated public schools (his father-in-law, Linwood Holton, had integrated Virginia’s schools as governor in the early 1970s). “Not only were they committed to integration, they lived it,” John V. Moeser, a professor emeritus at Virginia Commonwealth, told The New York Times.