Nov. marks 20 years since historic election
In 1984, Brookhaven elected its first black official.
John Hightower Jr. grew up in Ohio and attended high school at McKinley High School in Canton, Ohio. After graduation, he entered the Air Force in 1951 in which he would continue to serve for 20 years. This information and more about Hightower’s accomplishments in the Air Force can be found at the Brookhaven Public Library as part of a Black First Achievers display developed and executed by library staff member, Maxine Allen.
Allen compiled information about Hightower along with many other black history jetsetters in Brookhaven and Lincoln County. She said she got the idea upon reading an article about black history in Brookhaven.
“I went house to house and door to door talking to people and getting all of this information,” Allen said flipping through the large binder of individuals who make up a lot of Brookhaven’s black history when it comes to firsts.
According to Hightower’s wife, Josie, he was not initially interested in politics but was encouraged to run. She said a community member by the name of Jessie Bouie, who encouraged more black people in the community to run for official positions in the city, said Hightower would be a good person to run for the position.
“It was an easy win for John,” Josie said about the actual campaigning, which she said she was very involved in. “It was not bad at all. I made phone calls because I knew a lot of people in Brookhaven.”
In addition to Josie’s connections with the community, Hightower’s personality seemed to be a good fit among the city people.
“When he came he was very friendly,” Josie said. “He was good at being a Brookhavenite.”
Josie and John Hightower met in Springfield, Massachusetts, while she was visiting and helping her sister, who was having her first child. Hightower was there as part of his service in the Air Force. In 1972, the couple moved to Brookhaven, where Josie is from.
Hightower served as election commissioner for district one for 20 years from his election in 1984 to 2008. Hightower died in office, but his legacy and contributions to black history in the county, state and nation will live on for years to come.