The Downtown Optimist Club was founded in 1941 while a lot of the men in our Country were overseas fighting World War II. Of the men who returned after fighting bravely for our freedoms, many went on to have illustrious careers in business or health care or politics. One man came home and joined the Downtown Optimist Club to help make his community better, but went on to make the United States and in particular the United States Military better. His name was G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery.
From the SonnyMontgomery.com website:
Gillespie V. “Sonny” Montgomery was born in Meridian on Aug. 5, 1920. He was educated in the Meridian Public Schools, The McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tenn., and received a bachelor’s degree from Mississippi State College (now Mississippi State University) in 1943. While at MSU he was a member of the basketball team and was elected president of the Student Association.
He joined the U.S. Army immediately upon graduation from Mississippi State 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. Montgomery had a long and distinguished career in the Mississippi National Guard, retiring with the rank of Major General after 35 years.
Montgomery was elected to the Mississippi State Senate in 1956 after operating a successful insurance business in Meridian. As a member of the state legislature he introduced the legislation establishing the Mississippi Educational Television network. He served in the legislature for 10 years before being elected to the U.S. Congress in 1966.
He 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 measure is credited with saving the all-volunteer military force by providing education benefits for active duty, National Guard and Reserve members.[Read more]
In honor of The G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Foundation’s commitment to support youth projects in Meridian and surrounding communities and in recognition of Sonny’s life membership in the Downtown Optimist Club, the Foundation’s Board of Directors have decided to provide an annual contribution to the club in the amount of $1000.
Bradley J. Crawford, President/Executive Director of The GVM Foundation Board of Directors said, “Congressman Montgomery joined the Downtown Meridian Optimist Club in the 1940s shortly after returning to Meridian from Active Duty in World War II. He spent the rest of his life as a member and regular attender. The G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery Foundation Board is honored to carry on his legacy with this contribution and we are pleased that it will be used to the benefit of youth of this area.”
DTOC President Brian Koroknay had this to say about the donation and the on-going commitment from the GVM Foundation: “Once again, Sonny Montgomery will make a significant impact on this club and our community through his Foundation’s support of our Youth Projects. His lifelong commitment to the people of Mississippi and in particular East Mississippi never flagged or faded and this commitment from the Foundation continues to demonstrate the love Sonny had for our community and for our youth. He understood better than most that the youth are our future and he always did all he could to support their growth, their education and their achievements.”