Dr. Winfield Scott Montgomery passed away very quietly at his home in Washington on the eleventh of September. He had been in failing health for some time, but was able to be present at the reunion of his class in June and to enjoy the occasion at the time and in retrospect since. He was born at Fort Adams, Miss., May 15, 1853, son of Frank Montgomery and Celestine Britton, and lived in New Orleans until he was ten years of age, when life took a new turn for him. The scenes shifted. He ran away to follow the Federal troops, was befriended by a Vermont officer, fitted for college at Leland and Gray Seminary, Townshend, Vt., taught school in that town during his college course, the first two years of which were with the class of '77. At the end of that time he left to spend a year teaching in a temporary position in the Washington city schools. At the end of the year he returned to college and finished his course, graduating with the class of '78. Soon after graduation he became professor of ancient and modern languages at Alcorn University, Rodney, Miss., continuing until 1882, when he was called back to Washington to begin his notable career in the schools of that city.
He is survived by his widow, Emma R. (Wilder), whom he married in 1883, and by their son, Wilder P. ('06), now teacher of biology at Dunbar High School in Washington, and four daughters: Mrs. Marcia Cook of Chicago, Mrs. Marie Smith of New York, Mrs. Lydia Hillman, Miss Scottrosa, Montgomery, and several grandchildren. In speaking of Dr. Montgomery's unique career one of the Washington papers says: "To him as to no other man in the last half-century was given the opportunity of supervising and directing the public education of his race on all levels of instruction in a public school system. His chief contribution is the inspiration to pupils, teachers, and parents of the public schools of the District of Columbia derived from his noble character and noteworthy career." The secretary of the city board of education is quoted as saying that "his monograph in the report of the board for 1904-5 is a panoramic recital of the triumphant emergence of the race from serfdom."
His retirement in January, 1924, after his long service in the public schools of Washington, was made the occasion in November of that year of a notable public testimonial, with music by the glee clubs and orchestras of two high schools and addresses by Superintendent Ballou and other prominent educators. Flowers were sent in the name of '78, and letters were read from several of the class. But the most striking feature of the program was the review by one of the speakers of Montgomery's extraordinary career.
It is a thrilling story. Born a slave, familiar with the overseer's whip and with fetters of limb and spirit, aroused by the sight of Northern troops, running away and attaching himself to the Union army, befriended by Vermont volunteers, brought North for a glimpse of opportunity, taken back to follow Sheridan in the Shenandoah Valley, attached to a wounded officer and brought once more to Vermont, sent to school, thence to college, graduated with Phi Beta Kappa rank, later honored (in 1906) by his alma mater with the degree of M. A., three years professor of languages in Alcorn University, then for forty-two years principal, supervising principal, assistant superintendent in charge of colored schools, in the capital city, pursuing meantime the study of medicine and attaining an M. D. degree (Howard University, 1888) as an anchor to windward, but devoting himself wholeheartedly to education, largely instrumental in securing for colored children equality of opportunity under the organic law of the city, in the establishment and direction of manual training schools, fresh air schools, vacation schools, night schools, classes for the incorrigible, the atypical, the blind, for speech correction and for visual education, and finally retired with such high honors—did not the man span centuries of human progress!