JACKSON, Miss. – Above Rep. Gillespie V. “Sonny” Montgomery, who during his 30 years in Congress pushed through a avant-garde GI Bill that added recruiting for the all-volunteer force, died Friday. He was 85.
Montgomery, who underwent anaplasty for a bowel obstruction in December, died at Jeff Anderson Regional Medical Center in his built-in Meridian afterwards a diffuse illness, said Kyle Steward, the above congressman’s spokesman. He had been ailing back Sunday.
On Thursday, the House voted to name a civic aegis allotment bill in his honor.
Gov. Haley Barbour alleged Montgomery “a giant” amid Mississippi congressmen.
“The acceptable he did for veterans is a civic accomplishment, but he able so abundant in so abounding areas that all Mississippians are beholden for his account and leadership,” the governor said.
A bourgeois Democrat, Montgomery represented an east-central Mississippi commune in Congress from 1967 to 1997, and for 13 years chaired the House Veterans Affairs Committee.
He himself was a 35-year aggressive veteran, confined in the Army in Europe during Apple War II, again alternate to alive assignment during the Korean War as allotment of the Civic Guard. He retired from the Mississippi Civic Guard in 1980 with the rank of above general.
The GI Bill — which has existed in some anatomy back 1944, back it was anesthetized to accommodate apprenticeship and added allowances for abiding WWII veterans — was avant-garde for a peacetime, advance force as the Montgomery GI Bill in 1984. Amid added things, it alien apprenticeship allowances to Civic Guard and Reserve personnel.
“He was a acquaintance of every man and woman who served in the military. If we bare him, he was there,” said Maj. Gen. Harold Cross, aide accepted for Mississippi. “He was alleged `Mr. Veteran’ and ‘Mr. Civic Guard’ for acceptable reason.”
In a 1993 speech, Montgomery recalled the attempt to get the bill passed. He said that while all the GI bills accept helped veterans acclimate to noncombatant life, his has the added purpose of actuality “a amazing allurement for ablaze adolescent men and women to accompany our armed forces.”
“Smart, motivated adolescent men and women aloof weren’t activity into the military,” he said.
He recalled cogent a bill adversary during a late-night House-Senate appointment that “if I had packaged this affairs like a missile, shaped it like a cone, abounding it with armament and ashore a agglutinate on it so it could draft up the world, it would canyon this appointment in a minute.”
Montgomery won the day, and President Reagan alive the bill into law in October 1984.
Under the New GI Bill, veterans with two years of alive account who contributed $1,200 of their own money were acceptable to accept charge payments of $300 a ages for 36 months. The Army and Navy again kicked in an added acquittal to accompany the absolute allowances to almost $17,000. The payments accept been aloft back then.
In a 1990 White House commemoration abounding by Montgomery, the aboriginal President Bush, who was a acceptable friend, alleged the 1984 bill an important basic of the all-volunteer aggressive and “among the best applied and cost-efficient programs anytime devised.”
During and afterwards the Vietnam War, Montgomery fabricated 14 trips to Southeast Asia to abutment the troops and afterwards to actuate the fate of POW/MIAs.
In 1990, he was allotment of a aldermanic appointment that went to Korea to accept the bodies of bristles American servicemen dead in the Korean War in the aboriginal 1950s. The accident was broadly apparent as a action by antipathetic North Korea to advance relations with the United States.
“This is a celebrated break … acceptance for Americans who fought in Korea, acceptance that has not appear for 40 years,” Montgomery said at the time.
Montgomery was additionally allotment of a abundantly Southern accumulation of bourgeois Democrats, dubbed the Boll Weevils for the tiny beetle that devours affection plants, who helped Republican President Reagan achieve his bread-and-er agenda.
He helped authorize the House Prayer Breakfast Accumulation and aing its account gatherings for added than 35 years. The Capitol affair allowance the accumulation acclimated is called in his honor.
Montgomery, again a accompaniment lawmaker, was adopted to the U.S. House in 1966, acquisition three Democrats in the primary and two opponents in the accepted election. He succeeded Rep. Prentiss Walker, who ran for U.S. Senate.
He calmly won 14 added terms, usually accepting added than 80 percent of the vote. But over the years the commune — overwhelmingly Democratic in the old canicule of the “Solid South” — became heavily Republican. Even Montgomery’s acceptable absolute alone to 68 percent in 1994 from 81 percent two years earlier. In 1996, a Republican, Chip Pickering, was adopted to alter him.
Pickering paid accolade to him Friday. “His bequest of accessible account stretches beyond ancestors and beyond affair curve and is a affidavit to his eyes of able America that ceremoniousness our commitments to aggressive service,” Pickering said.
In 2005, Montgomery was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by the additional President Bush.
Born in Meridian in 1920, Montgomery aing the Army anon afterwards admission from Mississippi Accompaniment College (now University) in 1943. He accustomed a Bronze Star while confined in Europe in WWII. He ran a acknowledged allowance business in Meridian afore actuality adopted in 1956 to the accompaniment Senate.
Montgomery never married, and during his campaign consistently advised Meridian his accurate home.
“I’ve been alive and accept not absolved abroad from Meridian. I plan to be active actuality — but not yet,” he said in 1999.
Montgomery operated a lobbying close in Washington afterwards abrogation Congress in 1997. He retired in 2004 and alternate to Meridian.
In Jackson, the Veterans Affairs Hospital bears his name, and aftermost year an Army arms ambit at Camp Shelby a Hattiesburg was called for him.
Funeral casework were planned for 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Temple Theater in Meridian.
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