Phil Montgomery was born in San Antonio in August of 1953 to Ralph and Gladys Montgomery. His dad was a Civil Service worker at Kelly Field, and his mom was a stay-at-home-mom. Phil was one of three boys. The oldest, Larry James, is deceased. Denning is retired from the military and is living with his wife, Judy, in Costa Rica. Phil is the third son.
A life-changing crisis occurred in 1959 when Phil’s brother, Larry James, was in a malt shop with a group of friends when rival gangs “got into it” in the parking lot. Phil relates, “One genius pulls out his Saturday-night special and starts firing indiscriminately. One bullet made its way into the malt shop and hit my brother. It changed our lives forever. He lived the rest of his life without serious physical issues, but I’m not sure about his mental status. Standing at death’s door changes people. That’s when Phil’s dad decided to move the family to Devine, where Phil began first grade.
One example of being a “product of our environment,” Phil says his mom made sure he went to church twice a week, “…which gave me my religious and moral foundation for which I am eternally grateful,” he adds. On the same note, his dad taught him to tell the truth no matter what. Other people of influence include Mr. Ciavarra, “who was as quick to swat as to hug;” Mr. Barnhart, who taught self responsibility; Mr. Barnhart, who taught taking responsibility for one’s actions; Coach DuBose, who taught the value of team effort, and “you can’t win ‘em all;” while Coach Earl Miller “always said you could;” and Bill Bain, “who was famous for always taking care of people and taught the value of trust.”
Phil’s wife, Aileen Dubose, was “a little cotton-headed girl down the street,” who “got my attention, and in 1972 I asked Sam DuBose if I could marry his daughter.” Phil adds, “He said, ‘Of course, and thanks.’ I got a package deal because her parents, Sam and Gladys, and her brother, Shelton, and twin sisters, Ona and Ola, are good, homegrown, hard working people.” In 1972, Aileen and Phil graduated Devine High School and on June 16, 1973, they married in the Baptist Church in Devine. Jerry Beck was best man and Sandy (Wilkinson) Beck was Aileen’s maid of honor.
Phil attended Barber College during his senior year at Devine HS, and, after graduation, he started “trying to make a living.” Aileen was working at a law firm in downtown San Antonio “which kept us from starving because my first paycheck was one dollar.” During his first year as a barber, their first child was born, and Phil saw the need to bring in a better income. So, he whimsically shares, “I figured out the only difference between a barber and a stylist was the cost of a haircut, so, I stopped being a barber and started calling myself a hairstylist.”
That first child, Michelle, was born to Phil and Aileen in 1975. Upon graduating from DHS, she earned two degrees in four years from Tarlton State University – English and Corporate Communication. She married Randy Donnell from Greenwood, TX, and they have three children: Tayler (18), Greyson (12), and Chloe (11). Michelle and Randy are real estate professionals.
Matthew, born in 1985, also graduated from Devine High School and later that year joined the United States Coast Guard, which he says is his career. Phil believes, along with other experiences relative to one’s environment, that Matthew’s determination can be attributed to Coach Lynn Cozby, whose stern words of wisdom to Matthew has risen him in rank and responsibility. Phil is proud of his son and his wife, Angela Davalos, also a graduate of DHS, who serves as the Ombudsman for the USCG in the North Carolina area. Matthew and Angela have three daughters: Brooke (7), and twins – Autumn and Olivia (4).
Being that product of his environment, Phil says, “Thank goodness I returned to my roots…. I found more money wasn’t the answer, so, I started looking and thinking about a change of vocation.”
With many of his friends serving as peace officers, Phil decided to go that route. He applied with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and was hired in November of 1979 a move which he says was a “big gamble” because he would be taking a two-thousand dollar a month cut in pay. But Phil is quick to add, “I have never regretted the choice and would gladly do it again.”
As a 26-year-old agent, Phil spent his first next nine months in Ft. Worth, then he was pleased to move to San Antonio (where he remained for only 22 days!), and finally to Medina County to serve as a TABC Agent for 26 years. When he retired, Phil served as Captain for the LaSalle County Sheriff’s Office for a year, and then as an Investigator for Devine PD for another year. Thus, the majority of Phil’s thirty-one-year law enforcement career was spent here in Medina County.
Reflecting on his long career as a Peace Officer, Phil candidly states, “I saw many things I wish I could forget…. The hurt and harm we as humans do to one another by insensitive actions are written in indelible ink.” He goes on to relate one agonizing incident. “Thirteen years ago my nephew and a friend [to whom] he had given a ride were ambushed and murdered by three cowards. His [the nephew’s] crime was only that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was a potential witness.” As if that isn’t painful enough, Phil was the first officer at the scene. Experiences such as these where peace officers witness the “dark side” of human nature are embedded in their hearts and minds for life. Phil adds that if people understood the burdens they carry and demons they fight, “they would judge Officers in a different light.”
In 2004, Judge Marion Taylor, knowing that Phil was poised to retire from law enforcement that year, suggested that he run for Justice of the Peace. Phil recalls, “Judge Taylor said he thought it would be a good fit for me.” So, in 2005, Phil says, “After serious consideration, I threw my hat in the ring.” At this time, his only political experience was having served as City Alderman in Devine for 12 years. He recalls that “it was fun and sometimes intense but a great learning process.” In 2006, Phil Montgomery was elected Justice of the Peace and sworn into office January 1, 2007.
Soon thereafter, Phil was offered a position to instruct for the Texas Justice Court Training Center (TJCTC), a position he accepted. Since then, he has served in many positions on the Executive Board of the TJCTC, along with numerous positions for the Justice of the Peace and Constables Association (JPCA), including President.
In addition, Phil represented the interest of Justices of the Peace and Constables in Texas during the 85th Legislative Session in Austin and was recognized on the floor of the House with HR 1345 for service to citizens and the Judiciary of Texas by State Representative Hon. Andrew S. Murr, House District 53. Phil proudly received the flag that flew over the Capitol during that ceremony. Other awards include being named Judge of the Year and being the recipient of the T.A. Vines Award. Yet, Phil humbly adds, “Nothing holds a candle to the fact that I get to sit at the exact same desk of Judge Alton Sims Stribling, Justice of the Peace, Pct. #5, Medina County.”
Phil shares that in his work as a law enforcement officer, he found himself facing some of the same miscreants over and over, wishing and hoping he could make a difference, but seldom seeing any positive results. As a judge, however, he is able to offer guidance to those who stand before him and offer a plan to help them make changes in their lives.
Not only in his work and job, but in life itself Phil says he takes pride in being fair to everyone and to not only listen to what people say, but to watch what they do. And he is glad not only to have grown up in Devine, but to be able to work and raise his family here, “where family values still exist”.