John Montgomery: A Legacy

Despite the efforts to discredit Montgomery, his many supporters managed to secure a variety of honors including the following (all documented in Quest for Flight):

1920: San Francisco renames the Marina Flying Field the Montgomery Field.

1924: SCU establishes the Montgomery Laboratories on the site of the present-day Mayer Theatre.

1934: SCU holds a celebration to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Montgomery’s first flight.

1943: Disney features Montgomery in an animated movie called History of Aviation.

1940s: A number of San Diego organizations undertake efforts to form a memorial committee, establish the Montgomery Trophy for a soaring contest, construct a Montgomery Memorial at Otay Mesa and rename the Gibbs Flying Field to Montgomery Field.

1946: Columbia Pictures releases Gallant Journey, a movie about Montgomery, starring Glenn Ford.

1946: The John J. Montgomery Elementary School opens in Chula Vista; SCU constructs the memorial obelisk to commemorate the 1905 Maloney flight.

1960s: A group of aeronautical engineers from Lockheed construct a replica of The Evergreen; Santa Clara County establishes a monument on the Evergreen site; the National Society of Aerospace Professionals creates the John J. Montgomery Award; Montgomery inducted into National Aviation Hall of Fame; Spearman book published.

1970s: The first Montgomery Meet, a hang gliding competition, is held outside San Diego; John J. Montgomery Elementary School is completed and dedicated in San Jose’s Evergreen district; the U.S. Air Force Auxiliary Civil Air Patrol Squadron 36, based in San Jose, is named the John J. Montgomery Memorial Cadet Squadron; the Experimental Aircraft Association establishes the John J. Montgomery Chapter.

1990s to date: Santa Clara makes the Montgomery home an historical landmark; Montgomery’s first glider is recognized as an International Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark by the ASME; Norman Mineta reads into the Congressional Record an address commemorating the 70th anniversary of Maloney’s 1905 flight; Montgomery is inducted into the U.S. Soaring Hall of Fame; Montgomery is honored at the Centennial Celebration of Soaring Flight in 2005 in Aptos; a 30-foot-tall steel sculpture is dedicated in 2008 in the Evergreen district; that same year, the Hiller Aviation Museum in San Carlos celebrated the 125th anniversary of Montgomery’s first flight; in 2011, SCU’s School of Engineering and ASME establish a $40,000 endowment fund for the John Joseph Montgomery Gold Medal.

Montgomery’s legacy remains at SI, too, as many of his descendants attended St. Ignatius High School and College Preparatory. Montgomery married Regina (Gene) Cleary, the sister of Frank Cleary (Class of 1882) and Alfred J. Cleary (Class of 1900). Both men sent their children and grandchildren to SI, including Mark Cleary ’64, who served as chairman of SI’s Board of Regents and Board of Trustees. Cleary also served as an altar boy at his aunt Regina’s funeral and recalled that even as an adult she would love driving around the city with her brother, Al, who served as San Francisco’s first chief administrative officer. “She loved riding with the siren blaring,” said Cleary. “After her brother’s death, she had no sirens to play with. She tended to ‘faint’ in public just to ride in ambulances and hear the sirens. In the movie version of Montgomery’s flight, Gallant Journey, the actress who played my aunt fainted, and my father commented how true to form it was.”