Sonny: Can you believe this?'
SHARING A LAUGH Former U.S. Rep. G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery, left, and current U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering, who represents the 3rd Congressional District, share a laugh during a break in Friday's tribute to Montgomery at the Fourth of July Cellular South Pops Concert celebration at Bonita Lakes Park. Photo by Paula Merritt / The Meridian Star
By Fredie Carmichael / staff writer
July 5, 2003
G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery leaned forward and used a piece of tissue paper to wipe the mud from his black dress shoes.
Then he eased back and settled into his chair. His bright eyes widened as he watched workers scramble around with cable wires and microphones to set up a stage a few feet in front of him.
The former 3rd District Congressman then gripped the chair, turned and looked over his shoulder and said: "I keep forgetting that they're doing all of this for me. Can you believe this?
Minutes later, the clouds partially parted and the large stage in front of Montgomery was filled with state and local elected officials all gathered to honor him.
Montgomery, 82, splits his time between Meridian and running a defense-oriented consulting firm in Washington a job he's held since retiring in 1996 after 30 years in the U.S. House.
The special tribute to Montgomery kicked off this year's Fourth of July Cellular South Pops Concert celebration, with patriotic music performed by the Meridian Symphony Orchestra, at Bonita Lakes on Friday. The city of Meridian sponsored a 20-minute fireworks show to conclude the celebration.
With the threat of afternoon rain looming, a lighter-than-usual crowd that still numbered in the hundreds of people lined the rolling hills of Bonita's upper lake sitting in lawn chairs and on blankets.
The smell of freshly-cooked barbecue filled the air as vendors set up booths on the upper dam. Near the main stage, local politicians and their supporters worked the crowd, handing out their latest campaign paraphernalia.
Some residents positioned themselves for the fireworks show while they listened to the tribute to Montgomery.
Gene Kinard sat in a lawn chair a few feet away from the main stage and downed a piece of pepperoni pizza.
Kinard, of Marion, said he and his wife, Barbara, enjoy coming to the Fourth of July celebration at Bonita every year.
While the residents readied for the fireworks show, a group of state and local officials paid tribute to Montgomery. Dignitaries included Gov. Ronnie Musgrove, Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck, Meridian Mayor John Robert Smith and U.S. Rep. Chip Pickering.
Pickering, who succeeded Montgomery in serving Mississippi's 3rd Congressional District, joked about a decision he made earlier this week to stay in Congress.
Pickering turned down a $1 million a year job with a Washington trade group because he said he was still drawn to public service.
Pickering said Montgomery has set a good example for him and others to follow.
More than an hour after the first person stepped on stage to pay tribute to him, Montgomery took center stage and thanked everyone for the kind words.