For his veterans advocacy and passage of the Montgomery GI Bill, which in 1984 expanded education benefits for the military beyond the provisions of the original GI Bill of 40 years earlier, Montgomery received The American Legion's Distinguished Service Medal in 1996.

A Legionnaire and life member of Post 21 in Meridian, Miss., he thanked the organziation for its help during his 15 years as chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee. "Who stands for patriotism in this country today? The American Legion. Who worked the hardest to pass an amendment to the Constitution to protect our flag? The American Legion. Who fights the hardest for veterans benefits? The American Legion. That's why it really means something to me to be a member of this great organization."

A conservative Democrat and staunch patriot, Montgomery served in the House from 1967 to 1997. Besides pushing for expansion of the GI Bill, he co-sponsored legislation that elevated the Veterans Administration to a cabinet-level department in 1988. "Veterans will no longer have to go through the back door to the White House," he said.

In 1989, Montgomery proposed a constitutional amendment that would ban desecration of the U.S. flag. "If we don't do something, I fear that Americans, and especially veterans groups, are going to stop the desecration of the flag in their own way, and people are going to get hurt," he said.

Montgomery served in the Army during World War II and the Korean War. He retired as a major general in the Mississippi National Guard in 1980. After he left the military, Montgomery built an insurance business.

In 2005, Montgomery received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush. He died the following year, at 85.

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