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Read nomnee submission by Robert
Deborah Montgomery has seemingly seen it all and done it all. And for most of those experiences, she’s been a pioneer in her endeavors.
If you take a moment to talk with Montgomery, she can tell you first-hand accounts of some of the most influential moments during the Civil Rights movement. She was there in Washington D.C., standing near the end of the reflection pond, on Aug. 28, 1963, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered his famous “I Have a Dream Speech.” In 1965, she was part of one of the 50-mile Selma-to-Montgomery marches targeting voting equality.
And in the years since, she became the first police woman to work patrol in St. Paul, has been a prominent member of the International Association of Women Police and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), was the first African American female elected to the St. Paul City Council and has worked diligently on issues of economic development, housing and opportunities for youth and seniors.
For those reasons and more, Montgomery was honored at Thursday’s Minnesota Lynx game against Tulsa as the team’s Inspiring Women award for the month of July. Montgomery was honored in a second quarter on-court presentation with Lynx Chief Operating Officer Conrad Smith.
“I’ve always been a supporter of women’s sports, and to be honored by our hometown team and World Champs, you just can’t beat that,” Montgomery said. “I’m just honored to be part of this organization by being a season ticket holder.”
Montgomery is no stranger to Target Center, having been a Lynx season ticket member since the team’s inception. She’s been through the ups and the downs with the organization, and in the past year and a half she’s enjoyed the team’s rise to prominence with the 2011 WNBA title and their 15-4 record heading into the break this season.
She said she sees the type of work ethic and determination in the Lynx squad that is applicable to every day life.
“Good things come but you have to just stay tenacious and stay focused on what the goal is,” she said. “[The Lynx] have had good leadership. The organization is a great organization, and you get what you work for. That’s what we ended up with.”
She’s followed a similar model since she was a teenager in the 1960s.
Montgomery was a freshman at the University of Minnesota when she and a busload of students went to the famous “March on Washington” in 1963. Standing there on the National Mall, she witnessed one of the pivotal moments in American history as Dr. King described his dream of equality.
“If you look at that speech and his dream, he was looking for the dream for everybody in this country,” Montgomery said. “To sit there and to look at everybody surrounding you and being in awe of the words he was saying and what it meant to the country as a whole is something I think we all need to look forward to, and that’s something we strive to.”
During her stint as a law enforcement officer, she blazed new trails for future women not only with department policies but also by climbing the ranks to the Senior Commander level. Along the way, she reached out to mentor girls and women. While commanding the Juvenile Unit, she served on the St. Croix Valley Girls Scout Board of Directors and the International Association of Chiefs of Police Juvenile Justice Advisory Committee, which proposed programs for at-risk youth.
She’s been a Board President of the YWCA in St. Paul, has served as a delegate for training exchanges in Europe, Asia and Africa and became the first African American woman elected to the St. Paul City Council.
Her demonstration of courage, confidence and leadership throughout her life were reasons for which she was the recipient of the Inspiring Women award.
Fittingly, she was recognized on Camp Day as more than 15,000 fans—most of them children—were on hand to watch the game. Montgomery’s message to today’s youth is to try as hard as possible in school and understand what areas are your strengths. Then, you can work together to benefit the whole.
“It’s called teamwork—that’s what young people need to see,” she said. “That’s what you see when you look at the Lynx. Great teamwork. They play as a team, they don’t mind passing. That’s what makes successful people and successful programs.”
That’s one of the reasons she’s so honored to be recognized by the organization.
“It’s hard to be a professional athlete, and these ladies do a great job and they represent Minnesota so well,” Montgomery said. “That’s the part I like. To show women in a positive manner for young women to see, but also for us to be able to be seen in a positive manner throughout the state and the country.”
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