Julius Montgomery was the first African American student to sign up for classes in the summer of 1958 in the newly conceived Brevard Engineering College (Florida Tech). The new college was using classroom space provided by the local school district. When officials in the Brevard County Schools District learned, a few days before the first class on Sept. 22, 1958, that Mr. Montgomery was an African-American, they immediately issued an ultimatum to President Jerry Keuper. If Mr. Montgomery and any other aspirant African-American students were allowed to attend class, then the county school district would prohibit the use of three classrooms at Eau Gallie Junior High School. This would effectively be the college’s death knell. Julius Montgomery learned of the ultimatum and voluntarily withdrew his application. His self-sacrifice saved the university. President Keuper promised Mr. Montgomery that there would be a place for him in the university once Brevard Engineering College (Florida Tech) secured its own home. Mr. Montgomery enrolled in classes, in 1961, soon after Brevard Engineering College (Florida Tech) received the property on Country Club road that is our home.
The Julius Montgomery Pioneer Award is presented each year to a deserving candidate to honor their commitment and contributions to their community. It is also recognition of the pioneering spirit of Julius Montgomery and his contributions to our great university.