Julius Montgomery, Who Broke a Space-Age Race Barrier, Dies at 90

Julius Montgomery, Who Broke a Space-Age Race Barrier, Dies at 90


Mr. Montgomery had started running for office when he moved to the area in 1956, when few African-Americans held public office anywhere in the South. At the time, Florida had one of the country’s highest lynching rates per capita, according to Richard Paul, an author, with Steven Moss, of “We Could Not Fail: The First African Americans in the Space Program” (2015). Mr. Montgomery is the subject of one of the book’s chapters.

It took Mr. Montgomery 13 years of campaigning, off and on, to win his seat on the council. And it would be more than 35 years before another African-American was elected to that body.

Julius Marvin Montgomery was born on May 30, 1929, in Homewood, Ala., the oldest of 12 children of Edward Perkins Montgomery Sr. and Queen Ester (Jackson) Montgomery. The family lived in Rosedale, Homewood’s oldest neighborhood, which was settled by former slaves after the Civil War.

As a child, his daughter said, Julius had a terrible stutter, which isolated him. But he worked hard on his own to conquer it, giving him a self-confidence he never lost.

Mr. Montgomery attended the Tuskegee Institute, the historically black institution now known as Tuskegee University, where he studied to be a Linotype operator. He graduated in 1951.

He worked briefly as a printer before joining the Air Force that year, serving until 1956.

“He did top-secret work for the Air Force, rewiring and servicing the receiving stations that took down signals from spy satellites,” Mr. Paul, the author, said in a phone interview.

After the Air Force, Mr. Montgomery worked briefly as a radio station engineer in Mobile, Ala. He applied for other jobs at other companies, but was told they didn’t hire black people.



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