Jim Hightower

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Jim Hightower
Jim hightower 2008.jpg
Hightower at the 2008 Texas Book Festival
Texas Agriculture Commissioner
In office
January 1983 – January 1991
Governor Mark White (1983-1987)
Bill Clements (1987-1991)
Preceded by Reagan V. Brown
Succeeded by Rick Perry
Personal details
Born James Allen Hightower
(1943-01-11) January 11, 1943 (age 76)
Denison, Grayson County, Texas, USA
Residence Austin, Texas
Alma mater University of North Texas
Columbia University
Occupation Journalist; Commentator

James Allen "Jim" Hightower (born January 11, 1943) is an American syndicated columnist, progressive[1][2] political activist, and author who served from 1983 to 1991 as the elected commissioner of the Texas Department of Agriculture.

Life and career

Born in Denison in Grayson County in north Texas, Hightower came from a working class background. He worked his way through college as assistant general manager of the Denton Chamber of Commerce and later landed a spot as a management trainee for the State Department. He received a Bachelor of Arts in government from the University of North Texas in Denton, where he served as student body president. He later did graduate work at Columbia University in New York City in international affairs.

In the late 1960s, he worked in Washington, D.C., as legislative aide to U.S. Senator Ralph Yarborough. After managing the presidential campaign of former Senator Fred R. Harris of Oklahoma in 1976, he returned to Texas to become the editor of the magazine The Texas Observer. His first attempt at public office was an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic nomination for the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates the oil and natural gas industries, rather than the railroads the name of the commission would seem to indicate. In 1982, Hightower was elected Agricultural Commissioner, having unseated fellow Democrat Reagan V. Brown, who had ordered a quarantine of fruit coming into Texas from California. He served as agriculture commissioner until he was unseated in 1990 by the Democrat-turned-Republican Rick Perry, later the governor of Texas. His tenure was noted for fostering organic production, alternative crops, direct marketing by small farmers, and strong gross materials[clarification needed] regulations.[3][4] During that time, he also became a leading national spokesman for Democrats and endorsed Jesse Jackson for president in 1988. Three of Hightower’s aides at the Agriculture Commissioner, Mike Moeller, Pete McRae, and Billie Quicksall were indicted and convicted on bribery charges related to Hightower's fund raising activities. The activities involved shaking down seed dealers under the departments oversight to make contributions to Hightower’s reelection campaign. While Hightower was not involved in the plot, it contributed to his defeat by Perry.[5]

During the 1992 presidential election, he supported the candidacy of U.S. Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa. After Harkin left the race, Hightower supported Jerry Brown, again the governor of California, and cast his superdelegate vote for Governor Bill Clinton at the 1992 Democratic National Convention.

Soon after Clinton was elected, Hightower became a critic of the president. He criticized Clinton for having accepted corporate soft money contributions, his support of NAFTA, his health care plan, and his refusal to crack down on "corporate welfare", as well as what Hightower viewed as inadequate efforts at fighting unemployment and poverty.

In 2000, he joined with talk show host Phil Donahue and actress Susan Sarandon to co-chair the presidential campaign of Ralph Nader. He also appeared at Nader's "super-rallies" and stumped across the country for him.

After the disputed outcome of the 2000 election, Hightower voiced the opinion that it was Vice President Al Gore himself, who lost his home state of Tennessee, and not Ralph Nader, who caused Gore's defeat at the hands of Governor George W. Bush of Texas.[6] Although he issued no endorsement of any candidate during the 2004 presidential primaries, he spoke and wrote approvingly of since defeated U.S. Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio, calling him a "clear populist with a lifelong history of unambiguous advocacy of populist principles."[7] Once Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts won the nomination, Hightower endorsed him and urged fellow progressives to work for his election, saying, "I don't care if he's a sack of cement, we're going to carry him to victory."[8] During this election, he also campaigned in support of the U.S. Senate bid of Doris "Granny D" Haddock, a friend and fellow activist who was running as a Democrat against incumbent Republican Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire.

Since 1993, Hightower has produced "Hightower Radio," a daily two-minute commentary carried by over 130 affiliates. He also hosted a weekend talk show on the American Broadcasting Company radio network and a weekday midday talk show on the United Broadcasting Network (later called America Radio Network). The show aired in thirty-eight markets around the United States. His producer was Rich Kennedy. Floyd Domino was his music director and co-host. Susan DeMarco was also a co-host of the program and continues to work with him.

In recent years, Hightower has advocated for industrial hemp as a sustainable agricultural crop. Hightower talked about American farmers being unable to grow hemp due to the current policy of prohibition saying, "You can buy these hemp products, but – here comes the goofiness – our farmers are not allowed to grow the hemp! Instead, it comes from Canada, China, and elsewhere." He goes on to explain, "Our nation is the world's biggest consumer of hemp products (from rope to shampoo, building materials to food), yet the mad masters of our insane "drug war" have lumped hemp and marijuana together as "Schedule 1 controlled substances" – making our Land of the Free the world's only industrialized country that bans farmers from growing this benign, profitable, job-creating, and environmentally-beneficial, plant."

Hightower currently writes a nationally syndicated column carried by seventy-five independent weekly newspapers and other publications[9] through Creators Syndicate.[10] He also writes a monthly newsletter "The Hightower Lowdown,"[11] which has more than 125,000 subscribers. The newsletter is notable for its in-depth investigative reporting and criticism of George W. Bush's administration, which Hightower claims was beholden to corporations and extremist conservatives. He also writes for The Progressive Populist.

Doug Jones Average

The "Doug Jones Average," a concept created by Jim Hightower, is the proposal that in order to check the true health of the American economy, it is less useful to look at the Dow Jones Industrial Average than it is to check up on how Doug Jones down the street is doing. If Doug Jones is on welfare, cannot feed his family, is blowing his savings, and is three weeks behind on his bills, the Doug Jones average is "down." If Doug just got a raise, can pay his bills and Doug and his family are looking into owning a nice but not too expensive house, the Doug Jones average is "up."[12]

Awards and honors


  • Hard Tomatoes, Hard Times: A Report of the Agribusiness Accountability Project on the Failure of America's Land Grant College Complex (1972)
  • There's Nothing in the Middle of the Road but Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos (1997; ISBN 0-06-092949-9)
  • If the Gods Had Meant Us to Vote, They'd Have Given Us Candidates (2001; ISBN 0-06-093209-0)
  • Thieves in High Places: They've Stolen Our Country—And It's Time to Take It Back (2003; ISBN 0-670-03141-0)
  • Let's Stop Beating Around the Bush (2004; ISBN 0-670-03354-5)
  • Swim against the Current: Even a Dead Fish Can Go With the Flow (2008; ISBN 0-470-12151-3)


The official Jim Hightower Archive is at the Wittliff collections of Southwestern Writers, Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.[14]

See also


  1. Hazen, Don. "Texas Populist Jim Hightower Makes Progressive 'Hall of Fame,' as Nation Magazine Gathering Grapples with Conflicted Feelings about President Obama". Alternet.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Hightower, Jim. "Meet Jim". Jim Hightower.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Taylor, Ronald B. (19 December 1985). "Texas' New-Style Agriculture Commissioner : Jim Hightower Carries His Message of a New Populist Movement Nationwide". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 30 March 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. "Jim Hightower". Conservation History Association of Texas: Texas Legacy Project. Retrieved 30 March 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Three ex-aides to Hightower are sentenced Houston Chronicle. November 11, 1993
  6. Hightower, Jim. "How Florida Democrats torpedoed Gore". Salon Media Group, Inc. Retrieved 30 March 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. Hightower, Jim (January 2004). "We the People have driven the Dems to populism". The Hightower Lowdown. Retrieved 2006-05-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>[dead link]
  8. Kennedy, Dan (2004-06-30). "Media Log". The Boston Phoenix. Archived from the original on 2006-02-26. Retrieved 2006-05-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. http://www.progressive.org/hightower
  10. http://www.creators.com/liberal/jim-hightower-about.html
  11. The Hightower Lowdown
  12. Hightower, Jim (February 1993). "The Doug Jones Average". Retrieved 2006-11-16.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Puffin/Nation Prize for Creative Citizenship, official website.
  14. Jim Hightower Papers at The Wittliff Collections, Texas State University, San Marcos, TX.

Further reading

External links

Articles and interviews
Political offices
Preceded by
Reagan V. Brown
Texas Agriculture Commissioner
Succeeded by
Rick Perry