Rev. Thomas E. Montouth, Sr.

Rev. Thomas Montouth born in Georgetown Guyana, came to York in 1905 by way of New York through Lincoln University. Rev. Montouth operated a newstand at 298 West Princess Street where he distributed Black newspapers and other literature such as the Baltimore Afro American and the Pittsburg Courier. He was an outspoken advocate for Negro Rights in this community for decades in the 1920’s, 30’s and into the 1950’s. He became the Minister at Faith Presbyterian church in 1928. Rev. Montouth was one of the founders of the Community House a precursor to the Crispus Attucks Association, he was a founding member of the Crispus Attucks Association, the Lincoln University Alumni Club and the Powerful Citizens Club. He was a prolific writer and a fearless advocate for justice and would publish letters in the local newspapers on many topics related to the uplift of the Black man in York, Pa. He was ….….in 1932 his letter entitled “The Dawn of a New Day” called for the Negro elite of the community to come together to identify and resolve the major problems facing the Negro here. Other articles he wrote included one on Brotherliness, Racial separation and the Negro Church. As head of the local NAACP he would lead investigations into many acts of racial injustice or discrimination without Fear. He was a strong advocate for those wrongly charged by the criminal justice system.

In 1947 he was involved in a well-publicized discrimination suit against Howard Miller, the owners of the Dinner Bell Restaurant at 155 South Queen Street. The suit grew out of waiter Millard Dinges’ refusal to serve Rev. Montouth at the diner. Although the refusal to serve was witnessed by two York City policemen, Corporal Ira Bohn and Edward Pinkerton, the suit was denied by a local grand jury in what was termed “a capricious and arbitrary act totally disregarding the facts and the law”. Although he was not an attorney, as head of the NAACP Rev. Montouth would appear in court to defend any who he felt were wrongly accused. One such incident in 1950 involved the case of an 18 year old Negro male arrested for smiling and winking at a white woman. The youth was sentenced to pay a $25.00 fine and spend 30 days in Jail. Afer visiting and petitioning the Mayor at the time Mayor Bentzel the unjust sentence was overturned.

Another notorious case was the 1941 case of Mr. Alfoster White, 31 years old at the time. Mr. White was charged arbitrarily with disorderly conduct after a car he was riding in operated by Mr. Charles Washington was struck by the car of a white man, Grayson Deardorff. The officer alleged that Mr. White was arguing with Mr. Deardorff and refused to move along. Rev.  Montouth happened to be a witness to the incident and upon his testimony the case was dismissed.

In 1931 Rev. Montouth joined with Dr. George Bowles and several other community leaders to organize the Crispus Attucks Association. They envisioned an organization which could take the lead in building and uplifting the growing Black community. Crispus Attucks became the Heartbeat of the Black community during this era.  The Negro community as well as the community in general came to the support of the program. In the 1943 membership drive 957 new members signed up in support of the center. Of the 1400 employable colored citizens in the city of York at that time, 877 purchased memberships. If ever there was a renaissance for York’s Black community it came during the 1940’s, 50’s and early 60’s when Crispus Attucks provided leadership, direction and purpose for individual and group development. The leadership were proponents of W.E.B. Dubois philosophy of the “talented tenth” which described his belief that one in 10 black men who have become leaders of their race through methods such as continuing their education, writing books, or becoming directly involved in social change, had a responsibility to give back in an effort to uplift the Race. These leaders were outspoken and direct in their belief that we should assume responsibility for the development of our community both collectively and individually.

In 1972 Rev. Montouth was awarded the “Service to Mankind” award by the Sertoma Club of York. This award was presented to a citizen who has given freely and unselfishly his or her time and service to their fellow man.

Rev. Montouth’s home and business was destroyed in the floods spawned by hurricane Agnes in 1972. He then moved in with his daughter Ms. Alma Montouth, a retired school teacher who lived on the corner of Pershing Avenue and Maple Street. Rev. Montouth died in 1977 and is interred at Lebanon Cemetery.




Author: jkirk

Founder and Chief Researcher for the York African American Historical Preservation Society