100 years after his birth, Sonny Montgomery’s good deeds continue

From The Meridian Star (07/31/2020):

Patriot. Statesman. Soldier. Public servant.

Those are just four terms often used to describe the late Gillespie V. “Sonny” Montgomery, a Meridian native, World War II veteran and prominent U.S. Congressman.

Born Aug. 5, 1920, Montgomery, who died in 2006, would have celebrated his 100th birthday this upcoming Wednesday.

A hundred years after his birth, and 14 years after his death, Montgomery’s legacy continues to make an impact across Mississippi and the nation.

“I remember Sonny mostly by his personality,” said Brad Crawford, executive director and president of the G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Foundation in Meridian. “His love for people – all people. Sonny was well-loved here in Meridian, but also on Capitol Hill, and everywhere he went. He had this extraordinary interest in his fellow man … and this ability to bring people together.”

After graduating from Mississippi State University, Montgomery joined the U.S. Army, serving in the European Theater during World War II. He remained on active duty during the Korean Conflict and later had a long career in the Mississippi National Guard, retiring after 35 years as a major general.

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A Great American Friendship

Reprinted from The Paragould Daily Press

Photo Credit: The Meridian Star

Sunday, December 9,2018: One of George H.W. Bush’s closest friends was G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery.

The two met as freshman members of Congress. Bush was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Texas, and Montgomery was elected to the U.S. House from Mississippi. The year was 1966.

They were both about the same age. Montgomery was born in 1920, Bush in 1924. Both were World War II veterans. Bush had been a naval aviator in the Pacific. Montgomery was in the U.S. Army in Europe during World War II, and was active duty during the Korean War.

Bush was a family man. Montgomery was not.

After serving two terms in Congress, Bush lost his bid for the U.S. Senate in 1970, but the following year he would become U.S. ambassador to the United Nations under President Richard Nixon, then chairman of the Republican National Committee. Under President Gerald Ford, Bush was chief of the U.S. Liaison Office in China, and then spent about a year as director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) before President Jimmy Carter’s administration took over in 1977.

Bush ran for the Republican nomination for president in 1980, but dropped out in May of that year. He became Ronald Reagan’s running mate, and served as President Reagan’s vice president for eight years. Bush served one term as president (1989-1993).

Montgomery served 30 years in Congress. His greatest legacy is the Montgomery G.I. Bill. He also was a lead sponsor in establishing the Veterans Affairs cabinet-level position. When George H.W. Bush was elected president he even offered Montgomery the position of secretary of the department. Montgomery turned it down because he wanted to stay in Congress.

When Montgomery had a National Guard Armory named for him in Mississippi in 1981, Vice President Bush and his wife, Barbara, came to the dedication ceremony. The armory was adorned with gigantic letters bearing the congressman’s name. There’s a photograph of the three of them with the armory, and that huge name in the background. Bush wrote on the photo: “Dear Sonny — Memories of a great day, but can’t you get some bigger letters? George Bush.”

“When George Bush was president, I was al ways included in whatever social functions he and Barbara had at the White House,” Montgomery wrote in his book, “Sonny Montgomery: The Veteran’s Champion” (2003). “Sometimes the president and Barbara would meet me at St. John’s Episcopal Church on Lafayette Square, which is across the street from the White House, at 8:00 a.m. for the service, and we would walk back to the White House and have breakfast.”

In a column published in The Clarion-Ledger this past week, Sid Salter wrote that at Montgomery’s funeral in Mississippi in 2006, an inconsolable Bush said: “One of the great joys of our days in the White House was the Sundays that Sonny would come over. Every president needs a friend to be alone and relax with. For me, that person was, and always will be, Sonny Montgomery.”

Both men received the Presidential Medal of Freedom: Montgomery in 2005 from President George W. Bush, and George H.W. Bush in 2011 from President Barack Obama.

“Sonny Montgomery remains one of my closest personal friends,” George H.W. Bush wrote in the foreword to Sonny’s book. “While I served in Congress and after that in the Executive Branch of government, Sonny remained a close confidant, a man whose judgement I always trusted, a man whose friendship gave me comfort when the going got tough.”

Here’s the fun part — George H.W. Bush was a life-long Republican. Sonny Montgomery was a life-long Democrat. They opposed each other at times during their careers in public service, and they also worked together. What a great testament to each of them, and friendship, and America.

Steve Gillespie, Editor Of The Daily Press

Rep. Sonny Montgomery Leads House In Pledge For First Time

From Politico:

On this day in 1988, Rep. G. V. (Sonny) Montgomery (D-Miss.) led the House for the first time ever in a recital of the Pledge of Allegiance as the initial order of business. This ritual endures in both the House and Senate whenever they are in session.

G. V. “Sonny” Montgomery Pictorial Biography Book

photo 1The G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Foundation and the Mississippi State University Libraries co-published this unique biography and has placed a copy of the book in the library of every high school, college and university in the State of Mississippi. A copy is also presented to recipients of foundation recognition awards and scholarships for military or civilian leadership or academic achievement. The book is also utilized by the Montgomery Leadership Program in its leadership training curriculum.



Salter: Book honors life of late ‘Sonny’ Montgomery

Originally published in the Clarion Ledger and written by Sid Salter:

It’s sad but true that many of the Mississippi State University students who walk past the bronze statue at the southwest corner of the Drill Field on a daily basis have little or no idea who Gillespie V. “Sonny” Montgomery was or why his imposing visage guards the heart of the campus.

But older Mississippians know that perhaps no single individual ever did more to advance the cause of accessibility to higher education and to guarantee the survival of America’s volunteer armed forces than did the longtime soldier, businessman, congressman and patriot from Meridian whose ancestors were among the founding fathers of MSU.

A book honoring Montgomery’s extraordinary life and work is set to debut later this week. Commissioned by the Montgomery Foundation and produced from the “Sonny Montgomery Collection” by the MSU Libraries, the pictorial history of Montgomery’s life was gleaned from over 13,500 photographs donated to the university by Montgomery.

The book will be donated by the Montgomery Foundation to National Guard armories and facilities, schools and institutions of higher learning, and other appropriate venues as a testament to Montgomery’s remarkable legacy.

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Sonny Awarded Bronze Star In 1945

Recently, we found a news clipping from The Meridian Star dated September 3, 1945 describing the awarding of a Bronze Star for heroic achievement to Lt. Gillespie V. Montgomery and we thought we should share it.

1945 09 02 Officer Decorated Sonny Montgomery

Veterans credit GI Bill for helping them readjust to society after their tours of duty

November 09, 2013 11:02 pm • BILL TOSCANO • PostStar.com:

gvsm-hr1400[…] Harry Candee is SUNY Adirondack’s veterans’ services counselor, and he said Roberts, who he refers to as “a great student,” is one of 142 veterans enrolled at the college.

“That just counts the veterans,” said Candee, who spent 20 years in the U.S. Army and used the GI Bill while a service member and afterwards. “We have others here who are on a parent’s benefits.”

Candee, who has been counseling veterans for 14 years, said he feels SUNY Adirondack “bends over backwards” to help veterans, and added that anyone who knows a veteran should tell the veteran about the GI Bill.

“They only have 15 years to get started, so it is imperative if people know a veteran, they push them to take the benefits.”

Back to World War II

Historically, the GI Bill has been a catalyst for returning veterans.

The program, originally known as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act when it was passed in 1944, allowed for education, low-cost mortgages and low-cost business loans. It has changed over the years, first in 1984 when it was revamped by Mississippi Congressman Gillespie “Sonny” Montgomery — the “Montgomery GI Bill — then undergoing even more changes in 2009, when it was referred to as the “Post 9/11 GI Bill.

“I was broke when I got out. I got $300 for mustering out, and I owed my dentist $200,” said Lake George resident Dennis Galloway, who returned from fighting in the Pacific and used GI Bill benefits to train as an electrician with his father.

“It paid for my on-the-job training,” said Galloway, who went on to work as an electrician for more than two decades and parlayed that into a career as a real estate agent. “I was an apprentice to my father. He got approved because of his experience. That was my career from there.

“The GI Bill gave you the opportunity to get trained at the government’s expense,” he said, reflecting on the situation then and now. “The fact that you can go to school gives the veterans a chance to get their lives back.” […]

Read the rest…

A History of The GI Bill also from PostStar.com:

1944 — President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed it into law June 22, 1944.

1984 — Former Mississippi Congressman Gillespie V. “Sonny” Montgomery revamped the GI Bill, which has been known as the “Montgomery GI Bill” ever since, assuring the legacy of the original GI Bill lives on, as VA home loan guaranty and education programs continue to work for our newest generation of combat veterans.

2008 — The GI Bill was updated once again. The new law gives veterans with active duty service on, or after, 9/11 enhanced educational benefits that cover more educational expenses, provide a living allowance, money for books and the ability to transfer unused educational benefits to spouses or children.

August 1, 2009 — Expanded the Post-9/11 GI Bill to include Active Service performed by National Guard members under title 32 U.S.C. for the purpose of organizing, administering, recruiting, instructing or training the National Guard; or under section 502(f) for the purpose of responding to a national emergency.

March 5, 2011 — Limits active duty members to the net cost for tuition and fees prorated based on the eligibility tiers (40%-100%) previously established for Veterans. Same limitations apply to transferee spouses of active duty servicemembers.

August 1, 2011 — For Veterans and their transferees — simplifies the tuition and fee rates for those attending a public school and creates a cap of $17,500 for those enrolled in a private or foreign school. Pays all public school in-state tuition and fees; private and foreign school costs are capped at the national maximum annually.

October 1, 2011 — Allows students to use the Post-9/11 GI Bill for non-college degree (NCD) programs and Non-college degree (NCD) programs offered at non-degree granting schools, pays the actual net costs for in-state tuition and fees or the national maximum, whichever is less. Also pays up to $83 per month for books and supplies.

GVM Foundation Donates To NGEF

From The National Guard Association of the United States:

Guard Legion: 15 Large Donors Aid NGEF

The National Guard Educational Foundation has 11 new large benefactors to help fund the telling of the Guard story.

Foundation officials inducted the 11 into the Legion de Lafayette, which is reserved for those who donate at least $10,000 to the foundation, at a reception July 14 following the summer meeting of the NGAUS board of directors in Washington, D.C.

The NGEF also used the occasion to recognize four existing LdL members for adding to earlier contributions.

In all, the 15 honorees provided a combined $150,000 to the NGEF, which operates a variety of public education programs, including the National Guard Memorial Museum.

The new LdL members include corporations, state Guard associations, the elected heads of NGAUS and the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States, and the foundation for the late congressman known as Mr. National Guard on Capitol Hill.

They are: AMERIPACK Inc., retired Col. Edwin Livingston and Marcia Gosline, retired Brig. Gen. John L. Jones, retired Chief Master Sgt. Roger A. Hagan and Family in memory of Master Sgt. Doris “Dorrie” Hagan, Humana Military Healthcare Services, retired Maj. Gen. Harold Gwatney, the G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Foundation, the National Guard Association of Maryland, Remember My Service, the Wisconsin National Guard Association in honor of retired Lt. Col. Ronald R. Wagner, and Maj. Gen. Frank and Jane Vavala.

James G. ( Bo) Maske representing The G. V. “Sonny” Montgomery Foundation at our being inducted into the Legion de Lafayette which is reserved for those who donate at least $10,000 to the National Guard Education Foundation at a reception July 14th following the summer meeting of the National Guard Association of the U.S. (NGAUS) Board of directors in Washington, D.C.

Chris Mears & Associates Inc., Cobham, EADS North America and the NGAUS Committee on Company Grade Issues all added $10,000 each to their existing donations.

EADS North America is one of the NGEF’s corporate contributors. The manufacturer of the UH-72 Lakota helicopter has now donated $85,000.

GI Bill Celebration Photos

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