Julius Montgomery’64, First Black Professional in U.S. Space Program

Before the Civil Rights Act made equal employment opportunity the law, Julius was making history in 1956 as the first black professional in the U.S. space program. It seems only natural that he would go on to integrate Florida Tech just a few years later.

In the summer of 1958, Julius was the first African American student to sign up for classes at the newly-conceived Brevard Engineering College (Florida Tech). A few days before classes started, officials in the Brevard County School District learned that an African American was enrolled, and they issued an ultimatum to the university’s president, Dr. Jerome Keuper: if African American students were allowed to attend classes, the county school district would prohibit the use of certain classrooms at a local junior high. As the university did not yet have its own campus, this restriction would have crippled the university. Julius agreed to withdraw in order to keep the university functioning for the other students, and President Keuper promised Julius that he would have a spot at the school once it found a permanent home.

Soon after Brevard Engineering College received the property that is now the current Florida Tech campus, Montgomery effectively desegregated the school when he enrolled in classes.

To honor the pioneering spirit of Julius and his contributions to our great university, the Alumni Association presents an annual Julius Montgomery Pioneer Award to a deserving candidate to honor his or her commitment and contributions to the community.

Montgomery was featured in Florida Tech’s 60th Anniversary special edition book, “60 for 60: Celebrating Sixty Years of Alumni at Florida Institute of Technology.” Copies are available for purchase here.

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