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Georgia's first Black state trooper to be laid to rest

A funeral set for Retired Major Robert Hightower will be held Saturday, Sept. 26, at New Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta.
Credit: DPS Public Information Office

ATLANTA — Georgia State Patrol is celebrating one of their own, honoring a man who was the very first Black state trooper in the department.

The recognition comes along with news for a funeral, which is set for Retired Major Robert Hightower. It will be held Saturday, Sept. 26, at New Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta.

The Georgia State Patrol will pay a final tribute to Major Robert Hightower during his funeral where troopers from Troop C will provide a funeral escort for the family and the GSP Honor Guard will serve as pallbearers.

In a release sent to 11Alive, Georgia State Patrol said Major Hightower retired in 1998 after 28 years if service with the Department of Public Safety.

“On July 13, 1970, Hightower began his career with the Georgia State Patrol becoming the first African American State Trooper to be hired by the department. He realized early in his career that he would need a higher education in order to be promoted,” Georgia State Patrol report.

Credit: DPS Public Information Office

Below is more in his background from the department.

Hightower studied at Atlanta Law School and received an Associate of Arts Degree in Police Administration in 1976 from Dekalb Community College. 

In 1982, he received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice Administration from Brenau College and his Master of Science in Executive Decision-Making from Atlanta University in 1985.

DPS said in 1974, Hightower was promoted to Corporal and served as Assistant Post Commander at Post 9 - Marietta. In 1978, he was transferred to Atlanta Headquarters and designated as Supervisor and Coordinator of the Statewide Driver Improvement Program.

In 1979, Hightower was promoted to Sergeant and became a Certified Grievance Hearing Officer for the Georgia Merit System for 17 years.

In 1981, he made Lieutenant. He became supervisor of the Insurance Services Section in April 1987. By June 1989, he became supervisor of the Driver’s License Section. Hightower was promoted to Captain in 1990.

In September 1993, he became Division Director of the Driver Services Division. In 1995, he was promoted to Major.

Hightower retired from the Department of Public Safety in 1998. After his retirement, he became a Driver’s License consultant and liaison between DPS and the Georgia General Assembly. 

In 2001, Driver Services was transferred from DPS to the newly created Department of Motor Vehicle Safety, which is now the Department of Driver Services. 

Hightower was appointed by the Speaker of the House, Tom B. Murphy, to serve as the Sergeant of Arms/Doorkeeper for the Georgia General Assembly, House of Representatives until 2004.

In addition, Hightower served as a Civil Disorder Mediator and Conciliator in the State of Georgia for 19 years. He also provided executive security detail for Judges, Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr. and his family, and government officials for over 34 years. During the 1996 Olympic Games, he was the Venue Commander at the Joint Coordinating Center in Atlanta.

Hightower received numerous awards and served on the Board of Directors, Chairman for the Department of Public Safety Credit Union, and Chairman of the Finance Committee for the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators in the United States of America.

Major Hightower was married to Betty Jean Wright for 58 years. They have two children and three granddaughters. He is a member of Hoosier Memorial United Methodist Church in Atlanta and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.

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