Plano City Council honored a local Texas hero with the key to the city at the Monday evening regular council meeting.
Plano Mayor Harry LaRosiliere led the short ceremony for Dr. Myrtle Hightower, a longtime beloved community volunteer, at the beginning of the meeting, handing her the framed key and proclaiming that Feb. 10 would be now considered “Myrtle Hightower Day” in Plano.
“Often these proclamations have all that a person has done, but we’d be here all night for Myrtle,” LaRosiliere said. “Then I thought to myself, Everybody knows what Myrtle has done. And I started reading all the things she’s done, and it was staggering the volume of contributions that she has made to our city.”
Dr. Hightower has received many notable awards and accolades throughout her long career, including the Texas Hero for Children Award, and is credited with beginning a Black History program that would grow into what has become the annual community-wide MLK Day celebration in Plano.
Local Profile featured her in a May profile story and at the Dynamic Women of Color Summit in late August where she received the Local Legacy Award as a community servant. She was also awarded the Drum Major for Justice Award, which was established by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to recognize individuals who have dedicated their lives to community service. She’s been known for often quoting people she admires, including one of her favorites by Booker T. Washington: “Cast down your bucket where you are.”
“So as I cast down my bucket here in Plano, I feel that I have made some real progress,” Dr. Hightower said in May. “I feel that I have helped people by showing them a path to love and acceptance.”
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Beginning her career in the segregated schools of Tulsa in the 1950s, Dr. Hightower has held many positions in education over the years. She’s worked as a counselor at Will Rogers High School in Tulsa and eventually at McKinney ISD in the early 1980s. In 1987, she became a diversity counselor for Plano ISD, where she spent 30 years of her educational career.
“Education has always been an important part of Dr. Hightower’s life,” LaRosiliere told a crowded room Monday evening. “She started college at the age of 15 and went on to earn three degrees. She worked tirelessly as a teacher, a counselor and a volunteer to show people the path to love. She is especially passionate about events that focus on diversity and inclusion.”
Dr. Hightower started the Plano ISD’s first diversity committee and established a mentor program that is still going strong today. Plano ISD officials turned around and named an elementary school in honor of Dr. Hightower and her late husband, John Hightower.
She retired in 2016, but still stays active as a volunteer in the community.
At the council meeting, the mayor also shared some of his personal experiences with Dr. Hightower. He told the story of seeing her at a rotary club meeting in the early 2000s. She told him that he was going to be mayor one day. He looked at her husband who LaRosiliere recalled replying, “Hey, look she has been telling me what to do (for years). I’d listen to her if I were you.”
“Myrtle, when you said that to me, it made me realize that someone in your position believed in me,” LaRosiliere said. “And I think we can all use someone who can believe in us. It is one of the reasons why I’m so focused on our youth.”
Dr. Hightower was overwhelmed with joy and nearly speechless when she received the key to the city. “This is an inexpressible joy to receive the key from the city and city council members and the whole city,” she said. “I’m so happy to receive the key to one of Texas’ most progressive cities, and for Texas to have a city called, The City of Excellence.”