Meridian Star

Local News

August 4, 2013

Remembering G.V. ‘Sonny’ Montgomery

MERIDIAN —         Monday marks what would have been former Congressman G. V. “Sonny” Montgomery’s 93rd birthday if he were still living today.  

         According to Bo Maske, executive director and president of the G. V. "Sonny" Montgomery Foundation, it's only fitting that on his birthday, KC-135R Tankers are returning to Montgomery's beloved 186th Air National Guard Refueling Wing, and the return of that mission could not have been possible without the hard work, professionalism and dedication of its members.  The KC-135’s are returning from various units across the nation and on Saturday, the Wing hoted an official welcoming ceremony.

    "It's the best birthday gift he could have ever received," Maske said of the tankers' return.

         In conjunction with Montgomery's birthday, The G. V. “Sonny” Montgomery Foundation encourages everyone to visit the website, www.sonnymontgomery.org, which has been established in tribute to Montgomery and his enduring legacy.       "This website was developed to acknowledge the hard work and dedication of Sonny Montgomery throughout his career," Maske said. "We are proud to present it to the community out of love and respect for all that Sonny stood for."           The Foundation also invites its website visitors to take advantage of the section entitled “Send Us Your Memories of Sonny!” to post comments and photos that commemorate his career.

     In keeping with Sonny’s reputation for providing unsurpassed constituent service, the website also provides links to various government services, Maske said.

     The website was developed by Paul Tarver, of Tarver Program Consultants, Inc. in Meridian. Tarver, who is a member of Meridian’s Downtown Optimist Club, said he had the greatest admiration for Montgomery, who was a lifetime member of the club. "During the course of his career, Sonny put people first," Tarver said.

     Gillespie V. “Sonny” Montgomery was born in Meridian on August 5, 1920, and was educated in the Meridian Public School System.

    He was president of the student body at Mississippi State University and

    joined the U.S. Army immediately upon graduation, serving in the European Theater during World War II, where he was awarded the Bronze Star for Valor, Legion of Merit, and Combat Infantry Badge. He served on active duty during the Korean  Conflict in the 31st National Guard Infantry Division, and had a long and distinguished career in the Mississippi National Guard, retiring with the rank of Major General after 35 years.

         In 1956, he was elected to the Mississippi State Senate after operating a successful insurance business in Meridian. As a member of the state legislature he is credited for introducing legislation which established the Mississippi Educational Television network and served in the legislature for 10 years before being elected to the U.S. Congress in 1966.

     He also served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1967-1997, where he championed veterans’ issues and fought for a strong national defense. During his 13-year tenure as Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, he established a peacetime GI education bill that now bears his name (the Montgomery GI Bill). The measure is credited with saving the all-volunteer military force by providing education benefits for active duty, National Guard and Reserve members.

         Montgomery, 85, died Friday, May 12, 2006, and a funeral service was held a few days later at Meridian's Temple Theater. He was laid to rest at Magnolia Cemetery in Meridian. Among the dignitaries in attendance at the funeral were former President George H.W. Bush and his wife Barbara.  

     In May 2012, the G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Foundation unveiled a bronze bust of the late congressman that now graces the lobby of MSU-Meridian’s College Park campus. Montgomery maintained an unofficial office on campus after returning home from Washington, D.C.

    For more information, contact Maske at gvm.fndn@gmail.com or 601-604-5978. You may also contact Tarver  by emailing him at paul@paultarver.com or by phone at 601 483-4404.

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