Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Jack Hightower, a Democrat who also served a decade in Congress under three different presidents, has died. He was 86.
Osler McCarthy, a spokesman for the state's high court, said Hightower died Saturday in Austin. McCarthy said Hightower had Parkinson's disease.
"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," Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson said. "Jack Hightower had integrity, wisdom and a singular purpose: to serve the public by the rule of law."
Hightower began his political career in both the state House and Senate before being elected to Congress in 1975. He won a seat on the court in 1988, stayed until 1996 and was the state's last justice with legislative experience.
Born in the Texas Panhandle town of Memphis in 1926, Hightower served in the Navy and graduated from Baylor University. He set up a law practice in Vernon, along the Texas-Oklahoma border, and was elected to the state House a year after getting his law degree.
He went on to serve as president pro tem of the state Senate before being elected to Washington. His congressional career ended when his bid for a sixth term coincided with a statewide political shift in the 1980s that began putting Texas firmly in Republican control.
That includes the state Supreme Court, where all nine justices serving today are Republicans.
But during Hightower's seven-year run, in which Democrats still had clout, he wrote more than 100 opinions and is remembered by many as a moderate voice on the panel.
President Bill Clinton in 1999 appointed Hightower to the National Commission on Libraries and Information Sciences, where he served five years.
Hightower is survived by his wife, Colleen, and three daughters.
Funeral services were pending. He will be buried in the Texas State Cemetery.