Jack Hightower, who served in the Texas Legislature, in Congress, and on the Texas Supreme Court, died Saturday in Austin. He was 86.
Hightower served as a state Supreme Court justice from 1988 to 1996 before retiring. A graduate of Baylor University Law School, he received his law license in 1951 and spent time in private practice, as a district attorney, and as an assistant Texas attorney general.
“Texas has lost a true champion among its public servants and the Court has lost a colleague who at his very core was what a judge should be,” Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson said. “Jack Hightower had integrity, wisdom and a singular purpose: to serve the public by the rule of law.”
A lover of books and history, Hightower was the president emeritus of the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society, an organization he helped found while on the bench.
“I was conscious of the fact that there was no group interested in preserving the court’s history, so I got together with three other former judges and we formed a charter in order to preserve the court’s artifacts and promote research of the Texas judiciary,” Hightower told the Houston Chronicle in 2010.
He was born Sept. 6, 1926, in Memphis, Texas, and graduated from Memphis High School in May 1944. He served in the U.S. Navy before graduating from Baylor with a bachelor’s degree in history and, later, a law degree.
Hightower, a Democrat, served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1953 to 1955, as the Vernon district attorney from 1955 to 1961, as a Texas senator from 1965 to 1975, and in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1975 to 1985. His congressional district included Wichita Falls, Vernon, and Amarillo.
Hightower served as assistant Texas attorney general from 1985 to 1987 before being elected to the Texas Supreme Court in 1988. He later was appointed by President Bill Clinton to serve on the National Commission on Libraries and Information Science, where he served from 1999 to 2005.
In 2006, the Baylor Collections of Political Materials celebrated Hightower’s 80th birthday with an exhibit honoring him and his wife, Colleen Hightower, for their lives of service.
Hightower is survived by his wife of 62 years, Colleen, and three daughters, Ann Hightower, Amy Brees and Alison Suttle, and six grandchildren. Services were pending.
Burial will be in the Texas State Cemetery.