Bill Montgomery, the co-founder of pro-Donald Trump group Turning Point USA alongside Charlie Kirk, has died at age 80 following a battle with coronavirus. Montgomery is survived by his wife Edie as well as the couple’s two children, according to a statement from the group he helped to found.
The former creative director of Turning Point USA, Caleb Hull, posted about Montgomery’s death on Twitter. In a tweet that has since been made private, Hull wrote in part, “Bill Montgomery was my best friend, my mentor, and someone I looked up to like a father for the last 5 years, but today he lost his fight against COVID-19.”
Hull wrote that over the last two weeks, Montgomery’s health had been going “up and down and I just never thought it could be him that would go.” Hull described Montgomery’s death as “a huge loss for the world.” Hull concluded his remarks by saying, “I can’t wait to see you in heaven again.”
Kirk said in a statement to Politico regarding Montgomery’s death, “I can’t put into words how saddened I am by the death of my dear friend Bill Montgomery.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Montgomery Left Turning Point USA in April 2020 Having Previously Been the Group’s Treasurer & Senior Advisor
On his LinkedIn page, Montgomery referred to himself as Turning Point USA’s senior advisor, a role he had been in since June 2012. Montgomery said he was based in Lemont, Illinois. On his Facebook page, Montgomery said he was from Peoria, Illinois, and was a graduate of Lincoln College.
Prior to founding Turning Point USA, Montgomery had been an advisor to various businesses in Illinois including an accountancy firm and a construction business. Montgomery was also a former restaurant owner and newspaper publisher. Montgomery on his LinkedIn page called Turning Point USA “the most innovative youth movement in the USA.” ProPublica reported in June 2020 that Montgomery left the organization in April 2020 after his term as board member expired.
2. Prior to Founding Turning Point USA, Montgomery Was a Tea Party Activist
It is with great sadness to share that TPUSA’s first believer and senior advisor Bill Montgomery has passed away. It was Bill and Charlie’s chance encounter in 2012, along with Bill’s generosity and willingness to…
— Turning Point USA (@TPUSA) July 28, 2020
The June 2020 feature on ProPublica on Turning Point USA’s finances namechecked Montgomery as the group’s “lesser-known founder.” The website called Montgomery a “one-time Tea Party activist” and the treasurer of Turning Point USA. A 2011 news article from My Suburban Life refers to Montgomery as being a “Lemont Tea Party member.”
3. Montgomery Said Kirk Has the Qualities Necessary to Become the President of the United States
According to a 2015 feature in The Atlantic, Montgomery met Kirk during Benedictine University’s Youth Government Day in May 2012. The Atlantic reported that Montgomery watched Kirk speaking at the school and then told him, “I don’t know you but you need to start an organization to reach out to young people with your message.” Turning Point USA was launched a month later. Montgomery was also quoted by The New York Times as telling Kirk upon meeting him first, “You can’t go to college.”
A 2019 Washington Examiner feature on Montgomery’s meeting with Kirk described the late activist as “making a pile in real estate and advertising.” The article said Kirk had been planning to attend Baylor University. Montgomery attempted to get Kirk to take time off college with the university giving Kirk credit for starting his own group. Baylor University did not offer credit. The Examiner quoted Donald Trump Jr. as saying, “If it weren’t for Charlie Kirk, my dad would not be president of the United States today.”
The Atlantic quoted Montgomery as saying Kirk has the qualities to be the president of the United States. Montgomery also said, “Charlie is doing more in the youth movement than all of the other conservative youth organizations in the country. He is the future of the conservative movement in my opinion. And a lot of other people think that. That’s why we are raising the money we are.”
4. Kirk Wrote in 2019 That Bill Montgomery Was One of the Few People to Believe in Him
Kirk wrote a blog about what his relationship with Montgomery meant to him on CharlieKirk.com in June 2019. Kirk wrote that, aside from his own parents, Montgomery was one of the few people to believe in him. Kirk said that prior to the launch of Turning Point USA in June 2012, the pair spent “hours” on the phone together. Kirk said that Montgomery went to Tea Party rallies during the summer of 2012 to solicit donations for Turning Point USA.
Kirk wrote that Turning Point USA received its first major donation while the two were at the 2012 Republican National Convention in August of that year. Kirk added, “The truth is, if Bill didn’t have my back, if Bill didn’t keep pushing me, this experiment would have failed, and with it the millions of lives we have impacted along the way.”
5. A Review of Working at Turning Point USA Said the Organization Was ‘a Mess Since Bill Montgomery Was Forced Out’
Glassdoor, a website where employees anonymously review companies, contains mainly positive reviews of working at Turning Point USA. One negative review is titled, “A mess since Bill Montgomery the co-founder was forced out.” The review is dated as being written in August 2019. There is no mention on Montgomery’s LinkedIn or Facebook pages of a hiatus from Turning Point USA.
In 2016, Montgomery mentioned that he had become the editor of a website named Freedom Fights. Freedom Fights is “powered by Turning Point USA,” according to the group’s Facebook page.