MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) - Pastors, parishioners, and politicians are mourning the death of an engaged and enthusiastic Memphis faith leader and activist, Reverend Dwight Montgomery. Dr. Montgomery passed away Wednesday.
The 67-year-old led Annesdale Cherokee Baptist Church locally, and nationally drew strong marks as the President of Memphis' chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
Dr. Montgomery's congregation members, colleagues, and admirers described him as a man of integrity, a man who'll be missed, and a man who inspired in his sanctuary and out in the community.
"He had the pulse on the arm on the community,” says Rev. Clyde Jamison.
Those who worked alongside Rev. Montgomery rarely saw the faith leader disengaged, or disinterested, in making Memphis a stronger city.
"He had a lot of passion for his work and it rubbed off on me, made me a better person,” says Rev. Jamison.
Dr. Montgomery led Annesdale Cherokee Baptist Church for more than three decades. From 2004 until now, he served as President of Memphis' chapter of the SCLC. Reverend Clyde Jamison served as vice president for seven years.
"He didn't have a political ideology but what he did was bridge the gap between the liberals and conservatives,” says Rev. Jamison.
Over the years, Local 24 rarely found Reverend Montgomery hesitant to weigh in and take a stand on hot button issues, including school choice vouchers.
"Poor children cannot go to private school, so we are supporting the Governor's effort to provide scholarships to those children,” said Rev. Montgomery.
And on the role of the church in lifting up high poverty neighborhoods, "The government, wherever possible, SHOULD do more but the church CAN do more."
The national President of the SCLC, Doctor Charles Steele Junior, says, "Reverend Dwight Montgomery was the epitome of leadership and civil rights. He carved out areas he felt he could best contribute and that area was education and getting people educated, in both traditional and non-traditional ways."
Steele said Montgomery was also enthusiastic about the upcoming events commemorating the 50th anniversary of Doctor Martin Luther King Junior's assassination in Memphis.
Memorial service plans are pending for Reverend Montgomery.
Dr. Montgomery was one of a long list of local clergy who signed a letter released by Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland Wednesday morning, urging the Tennessee Historic Commission to allow the removal of the Nathan Bedford Forrest Statue from Health Sciences Park to a “historically appropriate site.”
Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland issued this statement:
“I was saddened to hear this morning of the passing of Rev. Dwight Montgomery. He was instrumental in my administration’s efforts to award grants to our 1968 sanitation workers. And I appreciated his support as we work to move Confederate statues from our city. I will keep his family, friends and congregation lifted in my prayers during their time of grief.”
Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell, Jr. issued this statement:
“Dr. Dwight Montgomery was a servant leader. He inspired me, and so many others, through his work with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Annesdale Cherokee Baptist Church and other community organizations. He will be missed.”
Sen. Lee Harris released the following statement on the death of Rev. Dwight Montgomery:
“Rev. Montgomery leaves behind a lasting legacy and he will be sorely missed by this city. He empowered young people and imparted hope in times of need. We are all better for his example, and his memory will live on for generations to come.”
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released the following statement Thursday on the passing of Rev. Montgomery:
“Rev. Montgomery was a steadfast advocate for equality and opportunity for all, especially for students and parents. He knew neither income nor address should determine the quality of education a child receives. Through his work in Memphis and with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, many students and families benefitted from opportunities, both educational and spiritual, they would otherwise have been denied.
We in the education community mourn the loss of his leadership, but most who knew him mourn the loss of their pastor. My prayers are with the faithful of Annesdale Cherokee Baptist Church as they will be the legacy of their shepherd.”