Sonny As A Next Door Neighbor

I was born and raised in Meridian living on Country Club Drive with one of the fairways of the Northwood Country Club behind our house.

I don’t remember or having been told when Sonny purchased the duplex next door to us. He kept one of the apartments for himself when he was back in town from Washington DC. He often would come over to say hello to my parents. This was especially the case following the death of my oldest sister in January 1970.

He even sponsored me as the Primary Candidate to the USAF Academy in 1973 even though I was not ultimately selected. Later, while I was on active duty with the Air Force my father passed in 1986 . . . I was told that it was from the personal efforts of my father’s employer and Sonny who made the arrangements to have my Dad buried in the VA Veterans Cemetery in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Richard Blanton

Placing Flowers At Grave Site Of Former Congressman Sonny Montgomery For 100th Birthday

Board Members of the GVMF visited the grave site of former Congressman Sonny Montgomery in Magnolia Cemetery on August 5th, 2020 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of his birth.

L to R: Brad Crawford, David Kennard, Wanda Hardy(Florist), Pam Stevenson, Bo Maske, Ronnie Walton, Bob Bailey

 

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

G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery – Aug 5, 1920 – May 12, 2006

sonny-montgomery-funeralRemembering Sonny on the tenth anniversary of his death.

Listen to a May 10 2016 radio broadcast of Richelle Putnam on SuperTalk Mississippi 103.3FM – “Looking Back at Sonny Montgomery with Bob Bailey”:

Sonny’s Extraordinary Knack of Friend Making

sonny_montgomery_bill_crawford_01My first meeting with Sonny occurred in 1967 when he made his first visit to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. All Mississippi midshipmen were mustered to meet with him. As one of his constituents I was given the opportunity to help show him around. Not long afterwards I received the adjacent photo.  I was to learn later that Sonny always followed up on his meetings with constituents.  Many times after that first meeting our paths would cross. Every time he would say “hello Billy,” like we were old friends. Indeed, Sonny made friends of nearly everyone he met…and remembered their names.

Years later, from 1991 through 1995, it was my privilege to work closely with Sonny on efforts to save Meridian Naval Air Station from closure. These pressure-packed, intense battles with the Navy and Pentagon before the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission let me see Sonny’s true character up close. Through it all he remained a man of honor, guided by faith, strong patriotism, and unwavering perseverance. But it would be his extraordinary knack to make true friends, his good will fellowship, that made the difference.

sonny_montgomery_bill_crawford_02The adjacent photo shows us and community leaders in 1995 with the late Admiral Jeremy Boorda. Our team’s case was strong, but it was ultimately Sonny’s fellowship that got the ear of then Chief of Naval Operations Boorda. That led Boorda to publicly disagree with his boss, the Secretary of the Navy, about NAS Meridian in sworn testimony before the BRAC commission – an extraordinary occurrence that allowed the base to survive its third consecutive BRAC round.

During this period our community learned important leadership lessons from Sonny. We embedded his leadership approach in the Leadership Lauderdale program and, later, its components – faith, fellowship, patriotism, and perseverance – would become the guiding principles of The Montgomery Institute.

It was a privilege to know and work with Sonny and be his friend. I’ve never met a more remarkable man.

Bill Crawford

sonny_montgomery_bill_crawford_03

A Rainy Saturday Morning in D.C.

Like most folks in Meridian, I knew Sonny. Not well, but I knew the man and I knew he represented our area in Congress really well.

In July 1981, I was one of the assistant scoutmasters of the Choctaw Area Council National Jamboree Troop. Four of us adults were taking our area troop of about 30 boys, to the National Boy Scout Jamboree at Fort A. P. Hill, Virginia. Fort Hill is near Fredericksburg, and so, a side trip to Washington was planned on the way to the Jamboree. I am assuming that the Scout Executive in Meridian arranged the Washington “touristy trip” as I know none of the adult Scout leaders did it.

We arrived in Washington by train on a very rainy Saturday morning and boarded a bus that took us to the capitol building. We had been told that Sonny’s office had set up a tour of the building for us. We adults assumed we might be met by a young aide from Sonny’s office for a routine tour.

We got the surprise of our lives when we got off the bus! In addition to Mr. Vance being there to greet us, Sonny was there too. Sonny took us places in the capitol that normal tourists don’t get to go. He escorted us to the floor of the United States House of Representatives. He let the Scouts sit at various desks in the House. He pointed out the initials carved in the desks by men that we (Scouts and adult leaders) had only read about in history books! We didn’t get the 50 cent tour. We got the 50 dollar tour!

After we left the capitol we emphasized to the Scouts (I think some of the older boys realized this already) that we had been treated to a special tour by OUR congressman – a man that we all greatly admired and respected. We made sure the boys knew that this was no ordinary tour.

This story of mine shows again what Sonny was all about. He never forgot where he came from. He was one of us.

Bob Chatham

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.

 

 

Memories: “It is our job to set the example.”

As a child growing up in East Mississippi, “Sonny” Montgomery was “our” Congressman. To us, in rural Newton County, he was bigger than life.

After high school I enlisted in the Air Force and went off for basic and then technical training. Once that was completed, I (age 18) was headed home to Mississippi for leave. Needless to say, having never been far from Mississippi before, I was feeling pretty full of myself. As I arrived via plane at Jackson, I headed down the jet way. I’d been traveling for a while (in uniform) and didn’t take the time to button my collar, tie back my tie or button my coat. I am quite sure I looked a mess.

Mississippi Congressman and Brigadier General G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery

Mississippi Congressman and Brigadier General G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery, c1991.

When I entered the gate terminal I recognized a man standing there and waiting to board his own flight. I had never met him, personally, but there was no mistake that it was Sonny Montgomery, probably on his way back to Washington. I tried to keep walking but he said, in a gentle but firm voice, “Young man, it is our job to set the example”. I could say nothing but “Yes Sir”. I knew what he meant. He was talking about those of us in uniform.

With that, I headed straight to nearest restroom to straighten myself up. When I came out, he was still standing there. He simply smiled and gave me his signature “thumbs up”. Without a word, I headed as quickly as I could to meet my parents who were waiting to take me home.

I could not have known on that day when I met Sonny “personally” for the first time that our paths would cross again many times. Because of his support of the military and our education benefits, I was able to go to college and later became an officer in the Navy. I even have advanced degrees because of the Montgomery GI Bill. One of my fondest memories during active duty was to be able to come back to Mississippi and be the first Commanding Officer of the G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Naval Reserve Center in Meridian. By then Sonny and I had become friends and he was a mentor to me. I was able to introduce him, tell this story during the dedication ceremony and tell him that at “his” Center, “It will always be our job to set the example”.

He remembered and, yes, I got a “thumbs up” that day too.

Randy Reeves

The shutdown, the debt ceiling and memories of Sonny Montgomery

Editor’s Note: The following article was written by Sid Salter and originally published on his blog on GulfLive.com.

Sid Salter--studio headshotAs the government shutdown and the subsequent rancor and gridlock reached new depths, I couldn’t help but think about the late U.S. Rep. Gillespie V. “Sonny” Montgomery.

Montgomery was a lifelong Democrat — a “boll weevil” Democrat, some called him — but a Democrat. But during his 30 years of congressional service, Montgomery was effective under Democratic or GOP leadership in the White House and in the Capitol.

I pass Sonny’s statue almost daily on the Mississippi State University campus. Through interaction with the Montgomery Foundation, I’ve had occasion to spend a significant amount of time going through his papers in the Mississippi Congressional and Political Research.

It was my pleasure to know Congressman Montgomery on a personal level. He was a man of great conviction who was guided by his principles and his fundamental love of God, his family and his country. But those principles did not lead him to doctrinaire political histrionics or lead him to conclude that the solution to the problems that vexed the U.S. government was to throw a wrench in the works of government.

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