In the May 20, 1949 edition of the Schenectady Gazette, there was an announcement of an upcoming reception planned to honor the Fifth Ward Supervisor, Mrs. Ethel Etkin. I presume that Mrs. Etkin was a lady of color, since the announcement goes on to state that “Invitations have been sent to every Negro resident of fifth ward, Mrs. Jessalyn Payne, chairman of the arrangements committee, has announced. Special invitations have been mailed to many of the Negro leaders of Schenectady who are not residents of the fifth ward. Representatives of many of the Negro civic groups attended the recent meeting and will assist in the arrangements of the affair” Almost as an afterthought, the article closes with, “Attorney E.Kermit Hightower, the first Negro attorney to take up practice in Schenectadv, will also attend.”
This one of the very few references I have found on the Internet that mention E. Kermit Hightower. This, in spite of the fact that he influences my life even to this day!
Starting when I was about 9 years old, I pumped gas for Mr. Louis Brzoza at the College Garage on Union Street, not far from my family’s home in Schenectady. I’ve written about that in this blog. One of our “regular” clients was the attorney E.Kermit Hightower. And it was the honorable Mr. Hightower who in 1948 purchased a black Lincoln Continental convertible (properly called a cabriolet) that I filled up with gas on a regular basis.
I became convinced that the 1948 Lincoln Continental was one of the most beautiful cars I’d ever seen. Every time I filled its gas tank, or checked its oil (no messy dip stick here, simply a float with an oil level indicator), or checked the coolant, I lusted after this large but graceful machine.
E.Kermit Hightower never knew it, but he and his car were the main reason why in 1967, I bought such a vehicle. And they are largely responsible for the fact that I still have it, having dragged it around the country and stored it for some 44 years!