In Memoriam: Jack English Hightower (1926-2013)

One of Poage Legislative Library’s best friends, Judge Jack Hightower, passed away last week.  He had struggled for several years with failing health following two falls. Even though he slowly recovered from broken bones, other health issues eventually took their toll.

I first met Judge Hightower in the early 1990s when he was on the Texas Supreme Court. His Texas senatorial and US congressional papers were already in Poage Legislative Library, but he wanted his personal papers to be here too. So periodically he would bring more treasures to the library, usually when he was in town on Masonic business.  He brought scrapbooks he made as a boy about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, scrapbooks of the Texas Centennial in 1936 when he was ten and then eighteen oversize scrapbooks began in 1953 when he was first elected to the Texas House.

Beginning around 2007, Judge Hightower decided to donate his 3,000 signed book collection to Baylor. To make room, Poage Library converted its reading room into a book vault. The last shipment of books arrived in July 2013. The presidential signatures date from John Quincy Adams to Barack Obama.

Judge Hightower began his training as a historian as a child when his parents and grandparents gave him books about US history and presidents. He continued his training at Baylor under Guy B. Harrison, Director of The Texas Collection.  When Jack came as a student, he approached “Guy B” about a job.  Guy B. said he didn’t hire male students because they were not good workers.  Jack challenged him that he would be different and he would not regret hiring him.  Jack worked for Guy B. for six years, all the way through Baylor law school.

At a young age, Jack developed an attraction to anything about Abraham Lincoln.  As a Baylor freshman, he joined the Lincoln Association.  Through the years he collected over 200 books about Lincoln plus numerous statues, bookends, plaques, photographs, magazines and numerous other types of items include Lincoln pencil erasures.

Jack was a life-long bibliophile. He visited books stores all over the country and overseas if he could.  One of his daughters commented that while other children were visiting Disney World on vacation, she and her sisters were visiting book stores.  Not surprisingly, she is an avid book reader today.

Judge Hightower began writing his autobiography several years ago, This is My Story. He finally handed it over to the Poage staff to edit two years ago.  Copies were made and distributed to his family last Christmas.

You can read more information about Judge Hightower at the Poage Legislative Library website here.

A few years ago, a Hightower book fund was established to maintain the Judge’s tradition of buying  signed books from outstanding politicians.    If you would like to be part of this tradition, you can contribute online.

-Contributed by Ben Rogers, Director, Poage Legislative Library.

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