Georgia’s first African American state trooper has died

Retired Major Robert Hightower became the first African American State Trooper hired by the Georgia State Patrol in 1970. After 28 years of service with the Department of Public Safety, Hightower retired in 1998 as the Division Director of Driver Services.

Hightower died Friday, Sept. 18. His funeral will be held on Saturday, Sept. 26, at New Calvary Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta.

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


In 1974, Hightower was promoted to Corporal and served as Assistant Post Commander at Post 9 in 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.

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. Additionally, he completed the Level V Management Series, State Merit System at the University of Georgia.

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. 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, now the Department of Driver Services. Hightower was appointed by the Speaker of the House, Tom 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 was a member of Hoosier Memorial United Methodist Church in Atlanta and Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc.

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



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