HIGHTOWER, JACK ENGLISH (1926 ~ 2013). The following is an obituary for Jack English Hightower, former United States Congressman and Texas Supreme Court Justice. The obituary was published in the August 5, 2013 edition of the Austin American Statesman.
Jack English Hightower, a small-town lawyer who devoted his life to public service at the local, state and national levels, died peacefully on August 3, 2013 in Austin, Texas of complications due to Parkinson's Syndrome. He was 86.
Jack Hightower was born in Memphis, Hall County, Texas, on September 6, 1926, the son of Walter Thomas Hightower and Floy Edna English Hightower. Jack spent his early years working in the Hightower Greenhouse, the family-owned flower shop and nursery. He told many stories about delivering corsages and collecting bills on his bicycle. After graduation from Memphis High School he attended Baylor University for a summer term. His study at Baylor was interrupted by his service in the Navy in 1944. After serving during World War II, Jack was discharged in 1946, and returned to Baylor University where he worked in the Texas Collection, a library of Texana, was surrounded by books that were his passion throughout his life.
It was at Baylor where he met Colleen Ward from Tulia, who he would marry in 1950. He graduated in 1949 and went on to receive his law degree from Baylor in 1951. Jack and Colleen moved to Vernon, Texas in 1951, where he joined the law firm of Storey, Storey and Donaghey. Shortly thereafter, there was a vacancy in the office of State Representative. He was convinced that this was his opportunity to embark on a career in public service, so he ran for and was elected as a Democrat to the Texas House of Representatives in 1952, where he served one term. He returned to Vernon and in January 1957 he was appointed District Attorney for the 46th Judicial District. He was named "Outstanding District Attorney of Texas" for 1959. He served as District Attorney until 1961.
Jack and Colleen were members of the First Baptist Church of Vernon for 35 years where he served as a Deacon and taught a men's Sunday school class. He was a member of the Vernon Lions Club and Vernon Lodge #655. In 1962 he was named to the Board of Regents of Midwestern University in Wichita Falls, Texas. Eager to continue in public service, he was elected to the Texas Senate in 1965 and served for ten years. He was a delegate to the tumultuous 1968 Democratic National Convention, which met in Chicago to nominate Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey for the Presidency. Elected as President pro Tempore of the Texas Senate, he served as Governor for a Day on April 3, 1971. During this time he was instrumental in making Vernon Regional Junior College, now Vernon College, a reality. Jack received a Doctor of Laws Degree from Howard Payne University in 1971. From 1972 until 1981 he was a Trustee at Baylor University and in 1978 he was recognized as a Distinguished Alumnus. In 1972 he was elected Grand Master, Grand Lodge of Texas, A.F. and A.M. In 1974 he was a delegate to the Texas Constitutional Convention.
Jack was elected as a Democrat to the Ninety-fourth Congress. He served in Congress for five terms, from January 1975 until January 1985. He served his district with distinction as a member of the Agriculture and Appropriations Committees and the Select Committee on Hunger. After a disappointing bid for a sixth term, Jack returned to Texas and was appointed First Assistant Attorney General of Texas, serving from 1985 until 1987. Jack's next and final elected position was as a Justice on the Texas Supreme Court from1988 until 1995. While serving on the bench, Jack became the founding President of the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society, of which he is the President Emeritus.
Following his retirement from the Texas Supreme Court in 1995, he was Of Counsel to the law firm of Hilgers and Watkins in Austin. He served as Chairman of the Board of the Scottish Rite Hospital of Texas in Dallas from 2001 until 2006 and Chairman of the Board of the Scottish Rite Education Association of Texas. Jack was a member and Deacon at First Baptist Church of Austin, where Colleen was the assistant organist. He taught the Zollie Steakley Sunday school class for many years. He served as a Trustee at Wayland Baptist University from 1991 until 2001 and received his LL.M. degree from the University of Virginia in 1992. He was appointed to the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science by President William J. Clinton from 1999 until 2004.
To commemorate Jack's 80th birthday, the Baylor Collections of Political Materials opened an exhibit about the life of service shared by Jack and Colleen Hightower. Jack donated his collection of over 3,000 first edition and autographed books as well as other collector's items and historical memorabilia. His personal collection included books signed by all United States Presidents from John Quincy Adams through Barack Obama. The theme of the exhibit is "The Hightowers: Integrity ~ Justice ~ Service." Jack and Colleen Hightower have been members of the Baylor library's Board of Advisors for several years and are lifetime members of the Baylor Alumni Association. Jack was devoted to his family.
He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Colleen, three daughters, Ann Hightower of Arlington, Virginia, Amy Brees and her husband, Chip, Alison Suttle, and her husband, Richard, of Austin. He was the proud grandfather of Lindley Thornburg; Drew, Reid and Audrey Brees,; and Molly and Nicoleta Suttle. He is also survived by his nieces, Pat Krueger of San Antonio; Jane Schotz of Austin; and Kate Lilly of Houston. His sister-in law, Emily Ward Hill and her husband, Jim, and nephews, Brian and Brad Hill, reside in Tulia, Texas. Jack lived a good life, characterized by true public service, devotion to his family, and love of his church and his Lord. He will be missed.
Jack will be laid to rest with a Masonic burial at the Texas State Cemetery at 10 am on Wednesday, August 7, 2013. A memorial service and celebration of Jack's life will be held at First Baptist Church of Austin at 2 pm on Saturday, August 10, 2013, followed by a reception at the church. The family would like to thank the healthcare staff at the Summit at Westlake and Heart to Heart Hospice Care. Memorial contributions may be made to the Poage Legislative Library, One Bear Place #97153, Waco, Texas 76798; the Scottish Rite Hospital of Texas in Dallas, 2222 Welborn St., Dallas, Texas 75219; First Baptist Church of Austin, 901 Trinity St., Austin, Texas 78701, or the Scottish Rite Dyslexia Center, 12871 North US Hwy 183, Suite 105, Austin,Texas 78750. Obituary and memorial guestbook available online at www.wcfish.com