As promised earlier today, I take this opportunity to mourn the passing of a great American, a true patriot and gentleman, Mississippi’s former longtime U.S. Rep. G.V. “Sonny” Montgomery, who died last Friday at age 85. Montgomery served 30 years in Congress; was a great (but wise and realistic) advocate for this nation’s veterans; revamped the GI bill in 1984 (and helped boost recruitment for the all-volunteer force), served in active duty in WWII and Korea, supported the military, helped track down the fate of POWs and MIAs, supported most of President Reagan’s economic agenda, helped establish and remained a leader of the House Prayer Breakfast, and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. (Hat tip to Wash Post for all the above info.) All of which made him a wonderful, admirable public servant, and one who also was wise. I write especially, though, to add a little human flavor to Montgomery’s obituary. You see, Montgomery was an avid tennis player, at least well into his mid-70s, meaning at least up until about a decade ago. I was working on Capitol Hill at the time, and I joined a Capitol Hill tennis association through which Hill workers met on weekends and played friendly, round-robin matches (often of not very high caliber). While Sen. John Breaux supposedly was a member of the group, he almost never showed; nor did other congressmen (if there were any other congressmen who were members) — with the exception of Sonny Montgomery. He was there most weekends, and he was an absolute delight to play with (as a doubles partner) or against. On his 75-year-old legs he wasn’t very mobile anymore, to say the least, but he had great court sense and decent strokes and a joyful attitude about it all. Competitive but self-deprecating, always patient with partners’ mistakes or opponents’ foibles, always the perfect gentleman, Montgomery was my favorite person out there. We even won a couple of good matches together. I will remember his very fondly.
May this good man who served his country extraordinarily well rest in peace and in God’s love.