Beacon Society Spotlight: The Montgomerys

A Life in Show Business & A Legacy Preserving the Arts Through PBS


For Claire and Monte Montgomery, life has been anything but static. A shared passion for the arts has led to a wide variety of jobs over the years, including singing on nightclub stages and cruise ships, coaching public speakers, working for museums and performers’ unions, and writing everything from children’s books to TV and movie scripts. Now, Claire works as an actress while Monte plays jazz. This vibrant life in show business has taken the Montgomerys across the country for more than 40 years, but one thing has remained constant through it all: their love of public broadcasting.

“We’ve traveled around a lot, but wherever we are we always listen to NPR, and we always watch PBS,” says Monte. “That way, we’re always home.”

As artists, the couple have long enjoyed cultural programming like AMERICAN MASTERS and INDEPENDENT LENS, admiring the opportunities public television has given independent filmmakers and fellow creatives.

As citizens, they recognize the value of reliable, non-partisan news from shows like PBS NEWSHOUR and FRONTLINE, citing PBS’s transparency about funding and critical reporting on important issues as “how the civilized world should work.”

And as individuals, they reflect on the many ways PBS has enriched their lives and inspired their creativity. “I got exposed to jazz primarily through public radio and TV. I was soaking it up my whole life, and now I get to draw on it – jazz is the main thing I do,” says Monte. “PBS appreciates the arts and the good they do for humanity. It’s not always easy to find influences that mean so much to so many people.”

This appreciation of PBS has inspired Monte and Claire to join the PBS Foundation’s Beacon Society by making a planned gift. After accounting for family, the couple will split their estate between PBS and NPR in an effort to strengthen public media as a whole and support member stations across the country.

Their support, Monte explains, is possible because the couple has always lived frugally – and because, as he jokes, PBS’s non-commercial programming has, to a large extent, saved them from falling prey to “the scourge of advertising.” And with federal funding accounting for only a small percentage of the budget for public media, Monte and Claire stress the importance of private donations in helping these vital institutions inform, inspire, and unite America.

Says Monte of the legacy he and Claire would like to leave through their support, “It has to do with the kind of world we want to leave behind – one that includes more of the things that were important to us when we were alive. For us, that’s public broadcasting.”

To learn more about the Beacon Society and other ways to strengthen PBS, please click here.


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