GAINESVILLE, Fla. — While Tim Montgomery awaited sentencing in 2008 on drug trafficking charges, he sat in a holding cell and contemplated his future.
“Everyone said I was going to get 17 years,” Montgomery said. “I’m sitting there thinking, ‘I can’t do 17 years.’ I said, ‘You know what, I’m going to kill myself.’ ”
Another cellmate on the other side of the wall consoled Montgomery.
“Keep your head up, it’s not as bad as you think,” Montgomery recalled his cellmate saying.
“They’re going to give me 17 years,” he said.
“I’ve already done 23, and I’ve got 36.”
“How do you do it?”
“I pray every day.”
The cellmate had a Bible delivered to Montgomery, and for the first time in his life, he read a book.
When Montgomery was riding high among the world’s fastest humans and earning an annual salary in the millions of dollars, he often flew first class from track meet to track meet.
To make himself look smart, Montgomery said he would visit airport bookstores and purchase the most expensive book available. He would rest the book in his lap without ever reading a word.
In reading the Bible in prison, Montgomery said he finally learned he could no longer fake it in life.
“I’ve got two choices,” Montgomery said he told himself. “I can let the time do me, or I can do the time.”
He began conditioning regiments for fellow inmates. He took pride in landscaping work at 12 cents an hour. He sold pictures of himself for a nominal fee. Ultimately, he reconnected with the mother of one of his children.
Montgomery first met Jamalee Blacketer by telephone in 1999 when he was living in Raleigh and she was in Indianapolis. She was assisting Montgomery in helping to repair his credit rating. A year later, they had a child (Tymiah) together but split soon after.
When Montgomery first went to prison in 2008, Blacketer contacted his parents and reached out to him in prison. She began visiting Montgomery, and they decided to marry.
Through prison ministry, the two went through marriage counseling. On Oct. 5, 2009, the two were married in the Montgomery (Ala.) Federal Prison Camp chapel.
Montgomery said the marriage gave him security in knowing there was another life awaiting him upon his release in 2012.