Andrew Jackson Montague attended schools in Middlesex and Williamsburg as well as being tutored at home. He entered Richmond College in 1880, was active in college life, and graduated two years later. Because of his speaking prowess he served as commencement orator. He next took a law degree at the University of Virginia in 1885. He married Elizabeth Lyne Hoskins in 1889; they had three children.
Early Political Career
Montague's political ambitions and views, which were increasingly in line with those of the Progressive movement, caused him to break with the Martin Organization, the Democratic Party machine led by Thomas Staples Martin. Montague was particularly concerned with the corrupting influence of railroad money in Virginia politics—the means by which, it was charged, Martin had won his Senate seat. Having established himself as an opponent of the machine, Montague received the Democratic nomination for state attorney general in 1897 and handily defeated the Republican in the general election. Montague further alienated Martin by supporting the movement to select Democratic candidates for the U.S. Senate by primary elections, rather than by vote of the General Assembly. The state Democratic committee twice defeated his proposal, and Martin was re-elected by the assembly in 1899.
Capitalizing on this desire for change, Montague, now the acknowledged leader of the reformers, or Independents as they were called in Virginia, adopted a new tactic in the 1901 campaign. Unlike earlier politicians who had refrained from pre-convention campaigning, he toured the state, employing his formidable oratory skills to talk to voters about corruption. In a campaign speech he delivered in Roanoke, he proclaimed that he "would rather be defeated a thousand times by the 'bosses' than elected by them"; in Richmond he declared, "Indifference to dirty politics prolongs dirty politics." Relying on his eloquence, his statewide recognition as attorney general, and the reform spirit of the day, Montague easily won the convention nomination over Swanson. He went on to defeat Republican J. Hampton Hoge with nearly 60 percent of the vote, becoming the first governor since Reconstruction who had not served in the Civil War.
As his first order of business, Montague attacked the deplorable condition of Virginia's schools. Little more than half the school-age population was enrolled, most schoolhouses had only one room, the state had only one four-year public high school, terms were abbreviated, and teacher salaries were abysmally low. Similar conditions across the South had prompted northern philanthropists to direct funds to the region through the Southern Education Board and General Education Board, and Montague used these efforts as well as the embarrassment of the statistics to arouse Virginians to participate in a "good schools" movement.
In March 1904 these educational reformers created the Co-Operative Education Association of Virginia to publicize the need for nine-month school terms, more high schools, improved teacher training, and agricultural and industrial training. Montague served as chairman of its executive board. The following spring the commission undertook a statewide speaking campaign, known as the May Campaign of 1905, in which 100 speakers made more than 300 speeches across 94 counties. Even the cynical Martin, then in a race for his Senate seat against Montague, was jolted into giving his lukewarm support.
Although advances were made in consolidating schools, increasing some school terms, and raising local funding, little was done at the state level to improve education during Montague's term. Conservative attitudes and the opposition of the Democratic Party machine caused the General Assembly to turn down his requests to increase the tax rate for schools, enact a longer statewide school term, and raise teacher pay. Nevertheless, Montague deserves to be known as Virginia's first educational governor for laying the groundwork for the educational reforms implemented by his successors.
Several factors account for Montague's failure to accomplish more as governor. He was reluctant to involve himself in the legislative process, perhaps because he was temperamentally unfit for the political infighting such involvement required. Well-known for his scholarly bent and kindly demeanor, he was more a patrician than a populist. His view of the role of governor may also have prevented him from taking a more active role. "My position as governor," he once said, "prevents my interceding with members of the legislature in behalf of any measure … I do not think I should undertake to favor in advance bills which are likely to come before me for approval or disapproval."
In 1905 Montague challenged Martin for his Senate seat in the Democratic primary election, initiating a long-awaited battle between the forces of reform and the defenders of the Martin Organization. The primary had recently been adopted by party convention; Martin had bowed to popular sentiment and conceded the use of a primary to select Democratic nominees, just as he had belatedly supported the movements for schools and roads.
The governor seemed to have the personality and popularity to win the primary, but Martin's shifts on the aforementioned issues undermined Montague's effort to paint Martin as an unreconstructed reactionary and minimized the differences between the two candidates. The governor vigorously campaigned across the state, advancing a progressive agenda of tariff reduction, railroad regulation, and election reform, and attacking the corruption and obstructionism of the Democratic Party machine. The loss of voters through constitutional revision cost him many votes, however. Furthermore, Montague lacked a strong campaign organization, did not have Martin's talent for raising money, and had lost the support of leading Independents such as A. Caperton Braxton and Carter Glass. Martin cruised to a relatively easy primary victory with 56 percent of the vote. The authority of the machine remained intact.
October 3, 1862 - Andrew Jackson Montague is born in Campbell County, near Lynchburg, to Robert Latané Montague and Cordelia Gay Eubank Montague.
1882 - Andrew Jackson Montague graduates from Richmond College.
1885 - Andrew Jackson Montague graduates from the University of Virginia with a law degree and is admitted to the Virginia bar.
1889 - Andrew Jackson Montague marries Elizabeth Lyne Hoskins. They will have three children.
1893 - President Grover Cleveland appoints Andrew Jackson Montague U.S. district attorney for the western district of Virginia. Montague serves in this position until 1898.
1898-1902 - Andrew Jackson Montague serves as attorney general of Virginia.
1901 - Andrew Jackson Montague is elected governor of Virginia, defeating his Republican opponent, J. Hampton Hoge, with nearly 60 percent of the vote.
January 1, 1902–February 1, 1906 - Andrew Jackson Montague serves as governor of Virginia.
1904 - Andrew Jackson Montague serves as delegate at large to the Democratic National Convention.
1905 - Andrew Jackson Montague unsuccessfully campaigns against Thomas Staples Martin for the Democratic Senate nomination.
1906–1909 - Andrew Jackson Montague serves as dean of the Richmond College Law School.
March 4, 1913–January 24, 1937 - Andrew Jackson Montague serves as member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
January 24, 1937 - Andrew Jackson Montague dies at his home in Middlesex County. He is buried in Christ Church Episcopal Cemetery, near Urbanna.
Cite This Entry
- APA Citation:
Heinemann, R. L. Andrew Jackson Montague (1862–1937). (2014, March 2). In Encyclopedia Virginia. Retrieved from http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Montague_Andrew_Jackson_1862-1937.
- MLA Citation:
Heinemann, Ronald L. "Andrew Jackson Montague (1862–1937)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Virginia Humanities, 2 Mar. 2014. Web. READ_DATE.
First published: February 5, 2013 | Last modified: March 2, 2014
Contributed by Ronald L. Heinemann, a professor of history at Hampden-Sydney College.