Service of The Historical Marker for Whitney Montgomery at Eureka,
Texas, Sept 10, 1967
Originally published in "The Navarro County Scroll", 1967
Reprinted with permission of the Navarro County Historical Society
came to commemorate the life of a great man, just how great many
will not realize. It is here, close to the old Montgomery home,
where Whitney Montgomery spent his early life that we set up and
dedicate the marker provided by the State Historical Association to
pay fitting tribute to one who was a true interpreter of an era and
a way of life that is fast passing away.
At the outset, I would like
to read a tribute to Mr. Montgomery by Dr. Arthur M. Sampley of
North Texas State University, a leading poet and intimate friend of
his. Dr. Simpley says:
Whitney Montgomery intimately, as well as his wife, Vaida Stewart
Montgomery, a fine poet in her own right. I consider Whitney
as one of the truly authentic voices of Texas, whose poetry has a
The roots of Whitney
Montgomery ran deep into Texas soil and he continued to write of
that which he knew and loved even after he removed to the city.
He let others write of bulldozers and skyscrapers and other
earth-changers and sky-changers.
On December 7, 1966, when
Whitney died, one of the major voices of Texas was stilled.
One of the founders of the Poetry Society of Texas in 1922, he
achieved eminence in writing before many of us were born. But
when we laid him beside his companion of the years in a cemetery at
the edge of Dallas, we felt that he would be happy sleeping by an
old fence row where the goldenrod scatters its seed, and he would
welcome the crows when they flew over, crossing to a new stand of
Whitney Maxwell Montgomery
was born September 14, 1877 in Navarro County, in the old Montgomery
home. Had he lived to the 14th of this month he would have
been 90 years old. For years he remained happy in this
environment, but the acres he tilled belonged to another earth.
Like Burns, he dreamed as he plowed and wove his dreams into a song.
He wrote in all over 250 poems, most of which are included in his
four books: Corn Silks and Cotton Blossoms, Brown Fields and
Bright Lights, Hounds in the Hills, and Joseph's Coat.
But Whitney Montgomery was
more that a poet; he was a maker of poets. With Vaida Stewart
Montgomery, whom he married in June of 1927, he founded a poetry
magazine, the Kaleidograph, and later the Kaleidograph Press,
publishing over 500 volumes of poetry in 30 years. It is
significant that nine of the books bearing this imprint won the
Poetry Award of the Texas Institute of Letters.
When Whitney came to Dallas,
he was exposed to a different mode of life. He was plowing in
new soil, but his furrows were still straight. The Montgomery
home at 624 North Vernon was always a rallying place for visiting
poets and friends of the family. I count it fortunate that my
wife and myself were numbered among those who shared in this
On July 24, 1959, the happy
association of 30 years came to an untimely end, with the death of
Vaida Montgomery, and Whitney found himself unable to carry on
alone. He was forced to discontinue the publication both of
the magazine and books of poetry.
Whitney Montgomery was not a
seeker after fame. A few honors came his way unsought,
and these he accepted with humility. No one was more surprised
than he when, at the age of 78, he was given the honorary degree of
Doctor of Literature from Southern Methodist University. The
country boy whose formal education ended with the eight grade seemed
out of place in his cap and gown as he marched with younger men to
receive his sheep-skin, and no one was more conscious of this than
Whatever his other
accomplishments, his bid for fame must reset upon his place as a
poet. Few of his generation excelled him as a writer of
ballads. A sense of wonder at the marvels of nature.
Identification with the life of the field and forest and sympathy
for human need characterize his poems. Standing in a
country grave yard he muses:
they are sleeping
Through the long night,
Souls that were crimson,
Souls that were white.
Here bloom above them,
Row upon row,
Blossoms of scarlet,
Blossoms of snow."
He joins a
company at a young girls funeral and sees scarlet berries some said
were a mark of her shame, but he shakes his head as he turns away,
and later he writes, the poem ending:
cannot say, I cannot say
The blood of Christ was red.
the deeper meaning of nature, he comes back from a walk in the woods
to write down these works:
for the poets song,
Alas for the painters art;
Walk along in the winter woods
And let them break your heart."
Now he is gone,
and with him the way of life which he was a part. But when the
last bluebonnet has been planted and plowed under, the last green
meadow buried under concrete, the last rainbow canyon filled with
slow water, that last singing lark gunned down, the blueness and the
greenness of eternity will still be here in the words of Whitney