History Maker Award


2021 Honoree Clifford R. Montiero

Clifford R. Montiero has served as a tireless advocate for access and equality for Rhode Islanders for decades, dedicating both his personal and professional life to community and public service.

Born in Providence in 1937, Mr. Montiero began his legacy of leadership early, serving as class president of Hope High School for three years. He went on to attend the University of Rhode Island, as well as what was then Roger Williams College.

In addition to a career in law enforcement that saw him serve as a Providence police officer, as well as a Rhode Island deputy sheriff, Mr. Montiero held positions at numerous non-profit and advocacy organizations. These have included President of the Providence branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Executive Vice President of the Citizens United Renewal Enterprise, which built housing for low-income people, founder of Opportunities Industrialization Center (OIC), which provided job training, and Community Coordinator for the Rhode Island State Council of Churches.

Mr. Montiero’s social justice work during the 1960s was prolific. As a leader in the Rhode Island Chapter of the Congress of Racial Equity, he staged marches, rallies, and sleep-ins at the Rhode Island State House in support of fair housing laws, and pressed for diversity and improved representation in the state judiciary and law enforcement agencies.

His work extended beyond Rhode Island, with Mr. Montiero participating in two seminal Civil Rights marches in U.S. history: the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and the 1965 Selma to Montgomery March, which included the iconic march over the Edmund Pettus Bridge. It was during the 54 mile march from Selma to Montgomery, in the face of violence and virulent racism, that Mr. Montiero handled communications and provided security for the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. who would deliver this “How Long, Not Long” speech outside of the Alabama State Capitol upon reaching Montgomery.

In addition to this honor as a History Maker, Mr. Montiero has also received numerous awards and recognitions for his years of service. These include Man of the Year, Thurgood Marshall, and Lifetime Achievement awards from the NAACP Providence branch, a Living Legend Award from the New England Area Conference of the NAACP, the Reverend Leon Howard Sullivan Award from the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society and the Opportunities Industrialization Center of Rhode Island, and a National Association of Secretaries of State Medallion Award from Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea.

Mr. Montiero lives in Florida with his wife, Rochelle Montiero. He has four children: Rebecca L. Montiero, Courtney R. Montiero, Debbie L. Scott, and Leslie Thompson.