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Linguistics Program

Michael Bryant Montgomery in Memoriam

Michael Bryant Montgomery
May 15, 1950 - July 24, 2019


I cannot express how deeply sorry I am to hear of Michael Montgomery's passing. I first met Michael when I was a graduate student at The Ohio State University in the mid-1990s. At the recommendation of my advisor, I reached out to Michael for assistance in collecting data for my dissertation on Gullah, a contact variety spoken along the coast of South Carolina and Georgia. At the time, I was planning on doing my research on tense and aspect in Gullah and African American English. However, Michael convinced me that the project that I had in mind was ill-advised and that I should switch to examining the copula. The rest, they say, is history. Michael put me in touch with two members of the Gullah community, who ultimately became the primary contacts for my dissertation field work (and have remained close friends and colleagues ever since). And he loaded me up with lots of articles, books, and resources that he thought I might need in order to get started on my research. 

In 2000, I accepted a position in the English Department and the Linguistics Program at the University of South Carolina as a replacement hire following Michael’s retirement. It was an honor to have the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of someone who had been so instrumental in helping me complete my degree. For over 20 years, Michael continued to share materials with me, often with a personalized note suggesting how I might find them useful. I discovered the most recent package of books waiting for me in my office mailbox about a week after he had passed away. 

Needless to say, Michael was a mentor, colleague, and friend for whom I am deeply grateful and to whom I am deeply indebted. He leaves a tremendous legacy of research and scholarship that will continue to nourish scholars of Linguistics, English, and Appalachian Studies for many years to come. I am fortunate to have known Michael and will miss him dearly. But I will always remember and admire him for his brilliant mind, tenacious spirit, generous soul, and charming personality. Rest in peace, Michael. And thank you.

-- Tracey L. Weldon, Associate Professor of English and Linguistics, UofSC

Michael was one of the bravest and most dedicated scholars I have ever known. His dedication to his research and to his students was as inspiring as it was humbling. Those here who he encountered were better for their having had the encounter. I believe that the example he set for others lives on in their work and their lives, and in the world at large.

-- Stanley Dubinsky, Professor of English and Linguistics, UofSC

When I think of Michael Montgomery, the words that come to mind are scholar, mentor, and friend. He was a scholar of the highest order. His work was foundational to what I do. His dictionary and description of Appalachian speech was central to many of the questions that I currently pursue. Further, he was not afraid to question assumptions or to allow his assumptions to be questioned. Many of his papers were my starting points, and as we say, if I see a little further, it is only because I am standing upon the shoulders of giants, and he was a giant scholar. 

I also got to experience the mentor side of Dr. Montgomery. He was a tireless mentor, always ready with advice and guidance. He helped me to see the niche that I could fill, and also encouraged me to find other questions to ask or roles to fill. When I told him of my interest in bridging the gap between the sister disciplines of sociolinguistics and speech-language pathology, he was thrilled. He pointed me to resources and reading that would help. Also, he helped improve my writing. Many times, a draft would come back with numerous comments. Some were stylistic, but many were to help me think deeper and in new ways about how to express (or express more clearly) what I wanted to say. I grew as a scholar and as a researcher from this. 

Finally, I got to know M2 (what I called him) as a dear friend. We traveled many hours and many miles together. We laughed, we told stories, and we talked about hopes and dreams. We shared a love of sports, especially college sports, and spent many a session discussing the fortunes of our favorite team – UT. Also, he was a man of faith, and I am too. We were able to bond in that respect. I will miss these conversations as friends as much as anything.

 Rest in Peace, dear friend. You will be missed and missed greatly.

-- Paul Reed, Assistant Professor of Communicative Disorders, The University of Alabama

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