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franklin county times

Montgomery Institute unveiled, will focus on regional leadership

By By Steve Swogetinsky/The Meridian Star
July 1, 2001
Planting seeds for community leadership.
That's the plan for The Montgomery Institute, a privately funded regional leadership development group whose creation is officially being announced today.
Named in honor of retired U.S. Rep. G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery of Meridian, the institute is made possible through $1.455 million in grants from The Riley Foundation.
It was Edwin Downer, a board member of The Riley Foundation, who first came up with the idea. Others in the foundation leadership concurred, and a three-man committee made up of Crawford, Mississippi State University president, Dr. Mac Portera, and Dwight Evans, then president of Mississippi Power Co., was commissioned to develop the organization's framework and mission.
Crawford said the institute is named in honor of Montgomery, but for more reasons than just his namesake.
Montgomery's years in Congress are today remembered for the many things he accomplished as Mississippi's Third Congressional District representative, Crawford noted. The Meridian native didn't spend his time in Washington D.C. tied up in political squabbles, but instead got important legislation passed through his ability to work with people.
It was Montgomery's leadership and work in Congress that saved the Naval Air Station Meridian from closure not once, but three times, Crawford added.
Montgomery said he felt honored to have The Institute named in his honor. As far as the characteristics of his leadership style, he said it was simply a matter of staying the course.
The Institute will work in Meridian, Lauderdale County, and every county in East Mississippi and West Alabama that borders with Lauderdale County. It will provide:
A mechanism for gathering area leaders together that, through education and training, can cause a regional consensus to form in support of improvement efforts;
A training ground for community and regional leadership; and,
A "think tank" and regional database that will support strategic thinking and effective planning.
The board of directors for The Institute is as follows: C.D. Smith, chairman; Crawford, president; Fred Blackledge of Quitman; Will T. (Bill) May of Newton; Hugh Thomasson of Philadelphia; Chief Phillip Martin of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians; Toretha M. Johnson of Butler, Ala.; Haskins Montgomery of Bay Springs; Ricki Tucker, secretary, of Meridian; and J.L. White Jr., treasurer, of DeKalb. A representative from Sumter County, Ala., will be named at a later date.
The Riley Foundation will provide $1.455 million over a five-year period to initiate The Montgomery Foundation. Of that, $1 million will be in the form of a challenge grant to permanently endow The Institute. The remainder will be provided on a declining basis each year to support operations.
Steve Swogetinsky is regional editor of The Meridian Star. Call him at 693-1551, ext. 3217, or e-mail him at sswogetinsky@themeridianstar.com.