Community reacts to passing of influential Memphis pastor Dwight Montgomery

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - An influential Memphis pastor has died.

Dwight Montgomery, pastor of Annesdale Cherokee Baptist Church, passed away Wednesday morning at St. Francis Hospital after a long battle with an undisclosed illness.

In addition to being pastor at his church, Montgomery also served as president of Memphis SCLC. His tenure as a Memphis leader was marked by his passion to fight for affordable healthcare, high-quality schools, affordable housing, workers' rights, and civil rights.

"I really believe he lived a life that left a legacy for younger people to live up to, to look up to," Rev. Keith Williams said.

Williams considered Montgomery one of his best friends, a mentor, and a brother. Williams last spoke to Montgomery on Friday.

"He actually took me through the entire schedule for the SCLC in 2018," Williams said. "Looking back now--hindsight 20/20--I can agree with his secretary that all of his business had been fixed."

SCLC's President and CEO Dr. Charles Steele released the following statement on Montgomery's passing:

"I am deeply saddened and troubled by the passing of  Dr. Dwight Montgomery.  He was a loyal and personal friend who has been the committed president of our Memphis chapter since 2004.  Dr. Montgomery loved Memphis, Tenn. and he loved the civil rights movement. That man was a legend in the state of Tennessee; a popular and powerful figure to be reckoned with.

Dr. Steele said Thursday he had a close relationship with Dr. Montgomery. He said the last time they spoke, Dr. Montgomery was looking forward to the celebrations of MLK 50 and couldn't wait to share Memphis's plans.

He also said that Dr. Montgomery's leadership and memory should serve as an example for leaders everywhere.

"He is the epitome of leadership in terms of the Civil Rights Movement, in terms of being a minister," Dr. Steele said.

Several community leaders and organizations released statements Wednesday on Montgomery's passing.

"Dr. Dwight Montgomery was a servant leader.  He inspired me, and so many others, through his work with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, Annesdale Cherokee Baptist Church and other community organizations.  He will be missed." --Shelby County Mayor Mark Luttrell Jr.

U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos released the following statement on Thursday:

"Rev. Montgomery was a steadfast advocate for equality and opportunity for all, especially for students and parents. He knew neither income nor address should determine the quality of education a child receives. Through his work in Memphis and with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, many students and families benefitted from opportunities, both educational and spiritual, they would otherwise have been denied.

No funeral arrangements have been shared at this time.

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