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Our History: Featured Alumni: Montague, Andrew J., 1885

Over the decades our graduates have developed distinguished careers as justices, congressmen, ambassadors, educators, businessmen and women, and community leaders in many fields. This site features some of those late graduates.

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Andrew Jackson Montague

Governor of Virginia; Congressman from Virginia

The son of Judge Robert Latane Montague, Andrew Jackson Montague was born in 1862 near Lynchburg, Virginia, where his family had fled to escape the Civil War. After the war, they returned to the Tidewater area, and Montague worked on the family farm and attended schools in Middlesex County and Williamsburg. After his father died in 1880, Montague left the farm and went to Richmond, Virginia, where he studied at Richmond College and gained a reputation as a skilled orator and debater. After several years as a private tutor, Montague became a law student at the University of Virginia, graduating with a law degree in 1885.

After graduating from the Law Department, Montague began practicing law in Danville, while becoming increasingly involved with the local Democratic Party. In the presidential election campaign of 1892, Montague developed a relationship with Grover Cleveland, who then appointed Montague in 1893 as the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia. Montague held that position five years, until, in 1898, he was elected as the Attorney General of Virginia.

In 1902, he was elected governor of Virginia, making him the first governor of Virginia since the Civil War who had not served in the Confederate Army. Shortly after Montague's inauguration, and with his support, the Virginia Constitution of 1902 was enacted, with poll taxes and literacy tests that effectively disenfranchised the black vote. He pressed for the creation of a state highway commission, which officially came into being two months after he left office. Montague also championed the primary process as a more open way to select political party candidates, and his efforts helped lead to the primary system being adopted for the first time in 1905.

In 1905, while still in office as Governor, Montague ran for the U.S. Senate against the incumbent Thomas S. Martin, but he was defeated. After leaving office as Governor in 1906, Montague served as the dean of Richmond College Law School for three years, before returning to the private practice of law in 1909. In 1912, he returned to politics by defeating the Republican incumbent to win the Richmond District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, a seat he would retain for almost a quarter of a century. Montague died in office on January 24, 1937.

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