Jack Montgomery (Louisiana politician)

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John Willard
"Jack" Montgomery, Sr.​

Louisiana State Senator
for the current 36th District
(Bienville, Bossier, Claiborne,
and Webster parishes)​
In office
1968​ – 1972​
Preceded by Harold Montgomery
Succeeded by Harold Montgomery​

Born June 2, 1936​
Springhill, Webster Parish

Louisiana, USA​

Political party Democrat
Spouse(s) Carolyn Tucker Montgomery (married 1958)​
Children John Montgomery, Jr.​

Elizabeth Montgomery
​ Mary Rebecca Camp​
Parents:
Earl W. and Berniece McLeod Montgomery

Alma mater Springhill (Louisiana)
High School​

Tulane University
Louisiana State University Law Center​

Occupation Attorney
Religion Southern Baptist
Military Service
Service/branch United States Air Force
Rank Judge Advocate General's Corps
Notes:
  • Montgomery's single term as state senator was sandwiched between two of the three terms of his more conservative intra-party rival Harold Montgomery of Doyline.
  • Montgomery's election was attributed in part to the popularity of then-Governor John J. McKeithen, but the defeat four years later was blamed too on fallout from the last year of the McKeithen administration
  • Like his father, John W. Montgomery, Jr., of the Greater Richmond, Virginia, area, practices law and serves on the state game and fisheries commission.​

John Willard Montgomery, Sr., known as Jack Montgomery (born June 2, 1936), is a retired attorney in the small city of Minden in Webster Parish in northwestern Louisiana, who represented the 36th District in the state Senate (Bienville, Bossier, Claiborne, and Webster parishes) for a single four-year term from 1968 to 1972. He unseated incumbent Harold Montgomery (no relation) of Doyline in south Webster Parish in the 1967 Democratic runoff election. Four years later, the conservative Harold Montgomery staged a comeback and narrowly defeated Jack Montgomery. Neither Montgomery ever again sought elected office.​

Background

​ Montgomery was one of five children born to a Springhill couple, Earl W. Montgomery, an employee of the former International Paper Company, once the largest employer in northern Webster Parish, and the former Berniece McLeod (1908–2008). His mother was originally from Hamburg in southern Arkansas.[1] Montgomery grew up in the Pine Hills subdivision in Springhill. He played on the 1953 state championship Springhill High School (now North Webster High School) football team. John David Crow (1935-2015), who won the Heisman Trophy in 1957 at Texas A&M University and then had a ten-year professional career with the Chicago, St. Louis and San Francisco. lived next door to Montgomery and also played on the 1953 championship team. Montgomery's father played on the Bastrop High School championship team in Bastrop in Morehouse Parish in 1927, and Montgomery's son, John, Jr. (born 1963), played football for Minden (Louisiana) High School but graduated the year before the team won the state championship in 1982.[2]

Montgomery entered the Reserve Officers' Training Corps at Tulane University. He considered becoming an Air Force pilot but was discouraged because the enlistment would be five years, rather than three.[2] He hence procured his law degree from the Paul M. Hebert Law Center at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He did join the Air Force and spent three years in the Judge Advocate General's Corps. When his tour of duty ended, he returned to his hometown and entered private practice with Roy Morris Fish. He later relocated the practice to Minden in 1972 because it had a more diversified economy than Springhill.[2][3]

1967 state Senate campaign

​ Jack Montgomery entered the race for the state Senate in 1967 to challenge the two-term incumbent Harold Montgomery, who had opposed the administration of Governor John J. McKeithen. Jack challenged Harold over highway construction issues. A Jack Montgomery advertisement asks why Webster Parish was then 20th among 23 North Louisiana parishes in highway funding. Bossier Parish, also part of the senatorial district, fared slightly better at 14th place.[4]

Jack Montgomery received numerous endorsements in the race and emerged as a significant challenger. McKeithen supported Jack Montgomery;[5] so did educators John Lemmon Cathcart (1895-1969), the former principal of Minden High School and E.S. Richardson Elementary School, also in Minden; Ed Olive, the principal of Springhill High School, and D. C. Wimberly, also a World War II prisoner of war from Springhill. A.O. Jenkins, then pastor of the large Central Baptist Church in Springhill, supported his parishioner. Others who signed a newspaper statement of support were the merchant A. J. Price, Jr. (Western Auto Company), Springhill Mayor James Allen, and Springhill newspaper publisher Danny D. Scott.[3]

Harold led Jack in the first primary, 10,982 votes to 10,534, but neither had a majority.[6] Therefore a runoff election was held on December 16, 1967. The result was a stunning reversal from the original primary vote. Jack unseated Harold, 10,037 votes (55.1 percent) to 7,177 (44.9 percent).[7] In the second round of balloting, more than four thousand voters who participated in the first primary sat out the contest, and nearly all who failed to vote did so at Harold's expense. Harold Montgomery expressed concern that people were confused over two men named Montgomery running for the office. He quietly sat out the next four years in preparation for a rematch in the 1971 Democratic primary.

In that same runoff, Harold's ideological ally, state Representative Parey Branton of Shongaloo in central Webster Parish, defeated former Springhill Mayor Charles McConnell to win a third term in the state House, 7,619 votes (52.6 percent) to 6,857 (47.4 percent). Harold's defeat and Branton's close victory signaled the power of the African-American voters in view of passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Most blacks chose Democrats and the more liberal choices within the party primaries.

Montgomery recalled that McKeithen "liked me and he let me do a lot of things as a young senator. He put me with men like Ernest Nathan Morial and E. L. "Bubba" Henry, and we rewrote the state workers' compensation laws."[2]

Montgomery v. Montgomery again, 1971

As the McKeithen administration lost popularity in its second term, in part by opposition to higher spending reflected in the construction of the Louisiana Superdome (since Mercedes-Benz Dome) in New Orleans, Harold Montgomery entered the race once more. Montgomery had failed in first state Senate race in 1956 against Herman "Wimpy" Jones, a Minden restaurant owner. In his scathing advertisement called "Public Feels Cheated," Harold Montgomery decried an assortment of matters that troubled him in Louisiana in 1971, many beyond the purview of the state Senate.​

"Public Feels Cheated"

  • Loss of confidence in government in general​
  • Thievery in office​​
  • Appointment of "political hacks" by the governor​
  • "Dope pushers"​
  • "Drunk drivers" (before the problem was accented)​
  • "Employees who don't work," and
  • "Politicians who continually ask for more money without showing any accomplishment in return."[8]​​

Harold Montgomery closed his ad with a prediction of high turnover in the legislative elections of 1971 and 1972, but the changes were mostly within the Democratic Party. McKeithen wa succeeded by another Democrat, Edwin Edwards, originally from Crowley in Acadia Parish but now a resident of Ascension Parish, with whom Harold had a personal friendship.​

In his own campaign ad, Jack Montgomery noted his opposition to gambling, support for vocational education, and aid to the handicapped.[9]

The 1971 returns narrowly vindicated Harold Montgomery, who dislodged Jack Montgomery, 14,595 (51.2 percent) to 13,889 (48.8 percent). Jack led only in Claiborne Parish, having lost in Bienville, Bossier, and Webster.[10] Harold Montgomery did not seek a fourth nonconsecutive term in the first ever nonpartisan blanket primary held in Louisiana on November 1, 1975.​

John Montgomery, Jr.

Jack Montgomery and his wife and childhood sweetheart, the former Carolyn Tucker (born 1940), a graduate of Springhill High School (1958) and LSU, have two daughters, Elizabeth and Rebecca as well as their son, John, Jr.[11]

John Montgomery, Jr., graduated In 1985 from the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York. Thereafter, John, Jr. was a United States Army airborne ranger infantry officer who later joined the National Guard and served with the 5th Infantry Division. He received his law degree from Tulane Law School in New Orleans. He is an attorney in Quinton in Greater Richmond, Virginia, and has served on the Varina School Board in suburban Henrico County,[12]with his second wife, Cappie L. Montgomery; the couple has four children, two from each of their past marriages.​[13]

In 2003, Virginia Democratic Governor Mark Warner, thereafter a U.S. Senator, appointed Montgomery to the board of directors of the state Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. He was also a military aide-de-camp to both Warner and Warner's successor as governor, Tim Kaine, now the other U.S. senator from Virginia and his party's unsuccessful nominee for vice-president in 2016. In 2007, Governor Kaine reappointed Montgomery to the DGIF board.[12]

Retirement

In his last years of practice, Montgomery closed his law office at 209 Pine Street in Minden and became an assistant district attorney for Bossier and Webster Parishes under District Attorney Schuyler Marvin, a Moderate Republican.[2] Jack Montgomery also served for some six months as the interim municipal judge in Minden. In 2007, he was the chairman of the board of Minden Medical Center.​ ​ Montgomery attributes his successes in life to "gifts from God. I have achieved nothing on my own."[2]

References

  1. Obituary of Berniece McLeod Montgomery, Minden Press-Herald, September 29, 2008.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Pat Culverhouse (December 15, 2014). Minden attorney Jack Montgomery retiring after 53 years in practice. Minden Press-Herald. Retrieved on July 15, 2020.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Minden Press-Herald," December 14, 1967, p. 2.
  4. Minden Press-Herald, December 15, 1967, p. 16 (advertisement).
  5. Minden Press-Herald, December 8, 1967.
  6. Minden Press-Herald, November 6, 1971, p. 1.
  7. Minden Press-Herald, December 18, 1967, p. 1.
  8. Minden Press-Herald, October 27, 1971, p. 7.
  9. Minden Press-Herald, November 3, 1971, p. 13A.
  10. Minden Press-Herald, November 8, 1971, p. 1.
  11. Net Detective, People Search.
  12. 12.0 12.1 "Your School Board," Henrico County, Virginia, Public Schools website; no longer on-line.
  13. Billy Hathorn, "Same Surnames, Different Perspectives: Harold and Jack Montgomery in the Louisiana State Senate, 1960 to 1976," North Louisiana History Vol 51 (Winter/Spring 2020, pp. 27-61.

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