G. V. “Sonny” Montgomery

Gillespie V. “Sonny” Montgomery was born on August 5, 1920, in Meridian, Mississippi. His early years were a testament to his resilience, marked by hardship, including his father’s untimely death when he was just ten years old. Raised by his mother, Emily Jones Montgomery, Sonny bravely navigated the challenges of the Great Depression, moving around Mississippi in search of stability and opportunity.

Despite these challenges, Sonny was not deterred. With the unwavering support of his great-aunt Alice Pope, he attended the McCallie School, a military boarding school in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Here, Sonny’s deep-rooted passion for the military flourished, inspired by the drills and parades he witnessed. This fervor for service was a family legacy, with his great-grandfather having served in the Confederate army. Sonny continued his education at Mississippi State College, majoring in business and joining the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC).

Upon graduating in 1943, he immediately enlisted in the United States Army and served as a lieutenant in the 12th Armored Division during World War II. His bravery and courage were recognized with medals, including the prestigious Bronze Star for Valor. After the war, Sonny returned to civilian life, working as an insurance agent and car salesman. He also continued his military service, joining the Mississippi National Guard and being deployed to Korea in 1951. His unwavering dedication to both his community and his country shone through when he won election to the Mississippi State Senate in 1956.

In 1966, Sonny’s commitment to public service led him to the United States House of Representatives, where he represented Mississippi as a Democrat for thirty years. Throughout his tenure, he championed the interests of veterans, serving on committees such as Veterans Affairs and Armed Services. His leadership was particularly evident during his chairmanship of the House Select Committee on US Involvement in Southeast Asia and the Select Committee on Americans Missing in Action in Southeast Asia.

One of Sonny’s most enduring legacies is the Montgomery GI Bill, named in his honor. This landmark legislation passed in 1984, provided educational assistance to servicemembers, reservists, and veterans, incentivizing enlistment and supporting the pursuit of higher education.

Despite being a conservative Democrat, Sonny was known for his bipartisan approach and willingness to work across the aisle for the greater good. His support for initiatives such as flag desecration amendments and tax reduction efforts during the Reagan era reflected his commitment to his principles and his constituents.

Sonny retired from Congress in 1997 but continued to advocate for veterans’ rights through his lobbying firm, the Montgomery Group. His lifelong dedication to service was recognized in 2005 when President George W. Bush awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

On May 12, 2006, Sonny Montgomery passed away, leaving a legacy of selfless service and dedication to his country and its veterans. His impact on the lives of countless servicemembers and veterans endures through initiatives like the Montgomery GI Bill, ensuring that his memory will be honored for generations to come.

Senator Thad Cochran
Former Mississippi State University President,
Malcolm Portera
President George W. Bush