James Irl Montgomery
James Irl Montgomery
February 7, 1926 - May 15, 2019
Native Wichitan and civic leader James Irl “Jim” Montgomery passed away peacefully on May 15, 2019 in Wichita Falls, TX with his wife of 71 years, Dorothy, at his side. Interment services will be on Monday, May 20th at Crestview Memorial Park Cemetery at 11:00 a.m. with a memorial service at First Christian Church at 1:00 p.m. with Dr. Mark Bender and Dr. David Hartman officiating. The family will receive friends at First Christian Church immediately following the memorial service. Arrangements are under the direction of Lunn’s Colonial Funeral Home.
James Irl was born on February 7, 1926, in Wichita Falls, the only child of Lois and Jean P. Montgomery. He graduated in 1943 from Wichita Falls High School as salutatorian and received the Junior Chamber of Commerce Award as the outstanding senior boy student.
He entered the US Navy V-12 program at the University of Texas in 1943 and served as its Battilon Commander. At the university Jim also served as the president of Beta Theta Pi Fraternity and The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) and an officer of Silver Spurs and the Interfraternity Council. He graduated Tau Beta Pi with a summa cum laude degree in Mechanical Engineering and was commissioned a Navy Ensign in 1946. He served on the USS Denver. He remained active in the US Naval Reserve Unit in Wichita Falls, retiring from the Naval Reserve in 1969. He was active in the local Retired Officers organization for many years and served as its president.
James Irl married Dorothy Banks Thompson of Dallas on September 5, 1947, and joined his father in Montgomery’s Inc. retail clothing store. In 1953 James Irl established the city’s first suburban branch clothing store, Montgomery’s Mens Wear, in Parker Square. He was founder and president of Parker Square Merchants Association and president of the boards of the Small Business Council and Better Business Bureau. He also served on the Civil Service Commission for six years.
His other community service activities included serving as president of the boards of the North Texas Area Camp Fire Girls, Public Housing Authority, Hospice of Wichita Falls, Interfaith Ministries, and as a vice president of the Priddy Foundation. He was an original board member of Region IX Education Service Center and served as its president for fifteen years. He also served as board officer of the North Texas Rehabilitation Center and a board member of the Wichita County Heritage Society, Salvation Army, Streams and Valleys, and as a member of the United Way Allocations committee. He served on the Presbyterian Manor board for 19 years.
James Irl’s service to the area Red Cross chapter was long-lasting, having served as board president. He was elected a board member for life and in 2002 was awarded a rare Clara Barton Award for Meritorious Volunteer Leadership by the chapter. His services to Interfaith Ministries were also over many years. In 2007 he chaired the committee to secure new facilities for Interfaith.
His membership and leadership in the Kiwanis Club of Wichita Falls spanned most of his adult life, with his holding a Life Member Award and 51 years of perfect attendance. He served as board president and received a Distinguished Lt. Governor and Layman of the Year award from Kiwanis District 18 and a Hixon Fellow Award from Kiwanis International.
James Irl was a lifetime leader in First Christian Church of Wichita Falls and served in countless ways. He was a founder of the Fidelis Class, chairman of the Deacons and Elders, and chairman of five different departments over the years. He was president of the board three times and of the Christian Men’s Fellowship and was named its Man of the Year in 1975 and 2006. He was chairman and member of several minister search committees and chairman of the Building Fund campaigns. The church elected him an Elder Emeritus in 2001.
James Irl’s service to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) began in high school when he was elected secretary of the first state Christian Youth Fellowship. He served as president of District 19 Disciples of Christ churches, vice-president of the Texas Association of Christian Churches, chairman of two Regional Conventions of Christian Churches held in Wichita Falls, a board member of the Juliette Fowler Home in Dallas, and a member of the national General Board of the Christian Church. He has been listed in Who’s Who in Religion in America.
After closing his retail store in 1985, he formed JiMont, Inc. Business Management Services and became the business administrator of First Christian Church for nine years. He was an officer in the Texoma chapter of the National Association of Church Business Administrators. After four years of retirement he returned to the management position at First Christian as a volunteer, retiring again in 2006 but staying active in church leadership.
James Irl was a beloved kind and giving Christian who devoted his life to his family, his church and his community. He is survived by his wife of 71 years, Dorothy; his daughters, Diane Spiller and husband Dr. Mike Spiller and Linda Gipson and husband Nick Gipson; grandchildren, Elizabeth Gipson Henry and husband Clayton of Wichita Falls, Emily Gipson of Austin, Dr. Michael “Trey” Spiller and wife Sally of Atlanta, GA, and his namesake James Montgomery Spiller and wife Rachel of Des Moines, IA; and cherished great-grandchildren, Neely and Ann Montgomery Henry, Judd and Remi Lou Spiller, and Reed “Wolfie” Spiller. The family would also like to express a heartfelt thank you to the caregivers at the Perkins-Prothro Health Care Center, Presbyterian Manor and the incredible nurses and staff of Hospice for their loving care of James Irl.
Memorials may be made to First Christian Church, Hospice of Wichita Falls, or any organization James Irl has served.