District Judge William Hightower retires after 42 years in office

Published 3:00 am Saturday, January 12, 2019

After 42 years on the bench, District Judge William “Bill” Hightower is retiring.

Friends and colleagues crowded the main courtroom at the Pike County Courthouse Friday morning to celebrate the new chapter in his life.

“Judge Hightower didn’t even want to do this today,” said Jamie Scarbrough, who has served as circuit clerk under Hightower since she was 19 years old. “I didn’t either.”

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Scarbrough said she may be the only person in Pike County that likes Bill Hightower, since most citizens only meet him in court and he is not known for leniency.

“Everyone always knows what to expect with him; there’s never a question ever,” Scarbrough said. “There is no gray area with him.”

District Attorney Tom Anderson echoed Scarbrough’s statement.

“It’s been an absolute honor the last 15 years of my life to appear before him,” Anderson said. “I, as well as my staff, had no doubt we were going to get fair and impartial judge that is honest and applies the law. If he took issue with what I thought the law was, I’d have to second-guess my position. He was usually right. He is a man of the highest character and we wouldn’t do anything he felt like he shouldn’t do … There can’t have been a better district court judge in this state.”

Brenda Peacock, who served as circuit clerk before Scarbrough, said she remembers when Hightower was just a “young slick-faced lawyer” coming in to be the district judge.

“He made us go by the law,” Peacock said. “We had had a different style here back then – it was a rough go for a little while but we learned that gentleman sitting over there is one of the best friends a circuit clerk and person could have. He near about killed me in this courtroom; he could kill with a one-liner and I’d have to have a straight face. We had a ball working together.”

Hightower received several different honors during the course of the celebration, including a commemorative framed piece of art from the Pike County DHR that had the handprints of children on it and the words “Because of you … I have a forever family … I am with my siblings … my family is together again.”

Hightower also received a rocking chair, signed with personal notes by many of the guests in attendance.

Scarbrough said there is a special quote engraved on the chair.

“It says ‘the smallest things sometimes take up the largest parts of your heart,’” Scarbrough said. “He said that quote to me this week – I’m not sure what we were even talking about. But I was thinking about all of the small things that make him who he is; it is the small things that we will miss.”

Scarbrough said the office will miss watching as Hightower Skypes code and accidentally creates a beer emoji when typing a ‘B’ in parantheses, or watching him slide back and forth from desk to desk in his rolling chair, or coming out of nowhere to make everyone laugh with one of his signature one-liners.

Hightower said his goal as a judge has always been to be the very best judge he can be every day, every case. “That’s pretty simple, hard to measure, but it’s simple,” Hightower said.

And it was a realization that he needed a right relationship with God that Hightower credits to the way he has conducted himself as a judge.

“I realized that my problem was that I was not in a right relationship with God so I realized that Jesus had died, even though he didn’t deserve to, in order to pay the penalties for my sins so that I could live, even though I didn’t deserve to,” Hightower said. “And of course that changed my life dramatically from that time and I eventually realized that being the district judge of Pike County … is what God created me to be and do.”