Dr. James T. Montgomery

BCRI Oral History Collection
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00:00:00 - Introduction to Interview

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Partial Transcript: This is an interview with Dr. James T. Montgomery for the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute Oral History Project.

Segment Synopsis: Dr. James T. Montgomery is introduced.

Keywords: Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (Birmingham, Ala.); Oral history interview

Subjects: African Americans--Civil rights--History--20th century

GPS: Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
Map Coordinates: 33.516200, -86.813870
Hyperlink: BCRI Homepage
00:00:23 - Family Background

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Partial Transcript: Thank you. I just want to start by asking some general kinds of questions on your background.

Segment Synopsis: Montgomery states that his family were native to Alabama, and that he was born in Atmore along with three brothers and two sisters. His family moved to Birmingham in 1936.

Keywords: Atmore (Ala.); Beatrice (Ala.); Bellville (Ala.); Grocery store employee

Subjects: African American families

00:03:03 - Educational Background

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Partial Transcript: Tell me what was Rosedale High School like.

Segment Synopsis: Montgomery describes his experience at Rosedale High School and the surrounding community. He states that he afterwards received scholarships to attend Morehouse College, but he struggled due to the differing educational standards.

Keywords: African American college students

Subjects: Morehouse College (Atlanta, Ga.); Rosedale High School (Homewood, Ala.)

00:08:48 - Medical School at Howard University

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Partial Transcript: At what point did you decide that you were going to medical school?

Segment Synopsis: Montgomery explains that he went to medical school at Howard University because he had done pre-med at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia. However, from 1947 to 1949, he taught at A.H. Parker High School in Birmingham in order to afford the tuition. He compares and contrasts the social climates of the two cities, stating that Atlanta was more progressive and Birmingham more segregated.

Keywords: A.H. Parker High School (Birmingham, Ala.); African Americans--Segregation; Howard University. College of Medicine; Morehouse College (Atlanta, Ga.)

Subjects: African American teachers; medical school

00:15:32 - Voter Registration

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Partial Transcript: Were there any efforts to organize voter registration or any other efforts that maybe worked to change that status quo?

Segment Synopsis: Montgomery states that efforts to help the Black community register to vote began well before the Civil Rights era, with figures such as Emory Jackson working on the issue since Montgomery was young.

Keywords: Benson, Morris; Jackson, Emory; Montgomery, B.M.; Voter registration

Subjects: Voter registration--United States

00:17:34 - Finishing Medical School & Return to Birmingham

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Partial Transcript: How was your transition from Birmingham to D.C.?

Segment Synopsis: Montgomery details his experience of completing the medical program studying cardiology at Howard University. He describes the ethnic makeup of the students in his classes over the years, which included Jewish and White men, to disprove the notion that Black institutions were also segregated at the time.

Keywords: Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights; Brown, Kelly; Cardiology; Holy Family Hospital; Montgomery, Althea Palmer

Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.); Holy Family Community Hospital (Birmingham, Ala.); Howard University. College of Medicine

00:24:16 - Relationships with Doctors and Patients

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Partial Transcript: How did you relate to white physicians at the time?

Segment Synopsis: Montgomery states that there were only a few Black doctors in Birmingham, and he explains that it was common for Black patients to be treated in white hospitals, but were put in segregated wards.

Subjects: African American physicians; Holy Family Hospital

00:28:06 - Teaching at the University of Alabama School of Medicine

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Partial Transcript: About 1960 or '61, we talked about it a lot in the Black Medical Society.

Segment Synopsis: Montgomery states that he was part of The Black Medical Society, which was affiliated with the National Medical Association. He was also the first Black physician to become staff at the University as Assistant Professor of Medicine.

Keywords: American Board of Internal Medicine; American College of Physicians; Fromeyer, Walter; Jefferson County Medical Society (Ala.); Medical College of Alabama; Stewart, Robert; The Black Medical Society

Subjects: African American physicians; Medical education--Societies, etc.; National Medical Association (U.S.)

00:36:35 - Experiences at Other Birmingham Hospitals

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Partial Transcript: So how long did it take before you were accepted at other hospitals?

Segment Synopsis: Montgomery details how the University Hospital was more progressive at the time by allowing Black physicians to practice at the hospital, which he attributes to Dr. Walter Fromeyer, Dr. Joseph Volker, and Dr. S. Richardson Hill.

Keywords: Baptist Medical Centers of Birmingham; Fromeyer, Walter; Hill, S. Richardson (Samuel Richardson), 1923-2003; UAB Hospital (Birmingham, Ala.); University Hospital (Birmingham, Ala.); Volker, Joseph F.

Subjects: African Americans in medicine; Hill, S. Richardson (Samuel Richardson), 1923-2003; UAB Hospital (Birmingham, Ala.)

00:40:54 - Supporting the Movement Politically, Financially, and Medically

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Partial Transcript: Tell me, this period, as you said it was a very, very interesting period, and I know that you had some relationship with the other things that are happening in Birmingham with the changing of the guard, for lack of a better term.

Segment Synopsis: Montgomery states that his support of the Movement came in financial backing, and was Fred Shuttlesworth's family physician. He became interested in voter registration issues, and worked to promote the Voter Education Project. In 1966, he ran for the legislature for the Democratic party, but was ultimately not nominated.

Keywords: Lee, Henry; Voter Education Project, Inc. (Atlanta, Ga.)

Subjects: African Americans--Politics and government--20th century

00:46:06 - Influential Campaigns for the Movement

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Partial Transcript: I just want to mention a few events and a few individuals and if you would just, off the top of your head, give me what comes to mind.

Segment Synopsis: Montgomery describes how the Freedom Riders, the Selective Buying Campaign, and the demonstrations in 1963 contributed to the overall success of the Movement.

Keywords: Freedom Riders; Selective Buying Campaign

Subjects: Achievements of the civil rights revolution; Boycotts--Alabama

00:48:45 - Public Opinion Towards Demonstrations

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Partial Transcript: Is that why you think they were not in favor of the demonstrations?

Segment Synopsis: Montgomery speculates that some people opposed demonstrations because they benefitted from the existing social structure, and that there was a resentment towards "outsiders" who were coming into the area to facilitate social change. He also describes how Fred Shuttlesworth and David Vann helped the success of the Movement.

Keywords: Shuttlesworth, Fred L., 1922-2011; Vann, David

Subjects: Civil rights demonstrations--Alabama; Public opinion

00:53:25 - The Children's March & Bull Connor

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Partial Transcript: Can you comment on the use of children in the march?

Segment Synopsis: Montgomery describes how the inclusion of children in the marches helped bring new life into the Movement since many active demonstrators had already been arrested. He then briefly characterizes Bull Connor.

Keywords: Carver High School (Birmingham, Ala.); Children's Crusade

Subjects: African American children; Connor, Eugene, 1897-1973; Sixteenth Street Baptist Church (Birmingham, Ala.)

00:55:37 - 16th Street Baptist Church

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Partial Transcript: The bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church?

Segment Synopsis: Montgomery recalls the devastation the bombing caused in the community, but that it drew attention on a national scale of the issues in Birmingham, increasing inter-racial dialogue on the issues of race.

Keywords: Johnson, Lyndon B.

Subjects: 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing, Birmingham, Ala., 1963

00:58:44 - Bomb Threat

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Partial Transcript: You and your wife were both known to be supportive and to be active. Did you ever receive any threats?

Segment Synopsis: Montgomery recalls how he received one bomb threat; he also remarks that that the majority of people who helped with the Movement were Baptist ministers, such as Reverend Samuel M. Davis.

Keywords: African Methodist Episcopal Church; Davis, Samuel M.; Death threats

Subjects: Bomb threats

01:00:06 - Medical Practice in Birmingham during the Movement

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Partial Transcript: How did your involvement in the Movement impact upon your practice?

Segment Synopsis: Montgomery treated various Civil Rights leaders including Fred Shuttlesworth and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He became a founding member of the Community Affairs Committee, which served to improve the relations with the police as well as campaign for integration in hospitals.

Keywords: Community Affairs Committee; King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968; Pitts, Lucious; Shores, Arthur D. (Arthur Davis), 1904-1996; Shuttlesworth, Fred L., 1922-2011

Subjects: Developing practice; King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968; Physicians (General practice); Segregation in hospitals; Shores, Arthur D. (Arthur Davis), 1904-1996

01:07:03 - Paving the Way for Black Students at UAB

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Partial Transcript: And I asked him, I said, "Dick, I want to know how many Blacks are going to be in this class?

Segment Synopsis: Montgomery describes how he advocated on behalf of African American students for UAB for enrollment in the medical program.

Keywords: Frommeyer, Walter B.; Hill, S. Richardson (Samuel Richardson), 1923-2003; University of Alabama at Birmingham; Volker, Joseph F.

Subjects: African American medical students; University of Alabama at Birmingham. University of Alabama School of Medicine

01:09:54 - Local Activism and Involvement

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Partial Transcript: Did you actually practice until 1984?

Segment Synopsis: Montgomery details his role in opening opportunities for Black physicians to work in hospitals and his part in getting an equal number of Black and white members on the panel about Bonita Carter's death.

Keywords: Arrington, Richard; Birmingham (Ala.). Mayor; Birmingham (Ala.). Police Department; Carter, Bonita; Vann, David

Subjects: African American physicians; Arrington, Richard; Birmingham (Ala.). Police Department; Societal transformations; Vann, David

01:14:29 - Conclusion of Interview

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Partial Transcript: Dr. Montgomery, I want to thank you for taking this time.

Segment Synopsis: Conclusion of the interview

Keywords: Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (Birmingham, Ala.)