Alumni Spotlight: Hugh Hightower
Walking through the front door of Sanitary Barber Shop in Pocahontas, Ark., provides both the opportunity for a haircut and the chance to step back in time. Just past the barber pole and through the front door, you find Hugh Hightower ('67) standing behind a traditional barbers' chair.
On opposite walls you notice plate glass mirrors framed in antique oak that date back to 1912, and scattered about the chairs are the latest newspapers and magazines.
If you are lucky, there will be a wait when you arrive, which will give you the chance to sit down and talk about how to fix the problems in Washington, D.C., or to just overhear where the fish are biting.
Sanitary Barber Shop was opened in 1894 and is the oldest barber shop in the state of Arkansas. For 39 of those 117 years Hugh, the current owner of the shop, has been a barber there.
Hugh graduated from barber school in March of 1960, and in August of that year he was drafted into the U.S. Army. Aboard the USS Darby, bound for Germany, the call went out for a barber and Hugh responded.
WBC Alumni Hugh and Joan Hightower.
When he produced a clipping from the Baxter Bulletin announcing his graduation from barber school he was given the job. Hugh says that while on the ship he was one of the barbers responsible for giving haircuts to the 1,200 men aboard.
When he returned to the states he went back to work as a barber and enrolled in college at what was then Southern Baptist College. Hugh spent two years at SBC and then finished his degree at Arkansas State University. After graduation, Hugh taught 3rd and 4th grade for a year in Maynard, Ark. He spent the majority of his teaching career in Pocahontas where he taught 5th-8th grade.
For most people one job would have been enough, but Hugh not only taught school for 28 years, he also continued to work at the barber shop in the evenings and on Saturdays, as well as during summer vacation. Hugh worked alongside his father-in-law, Jim Holobaugh, who ran the shop from 1937-1969. Hugh is married to Jim's youngest daughter, Joan, who graduated from Southern Baptist College in 1972 with an Associate of Arts degree.
On Tuesday through Friday you can walk into the Sanitary Barber Shop and get a haircut for $7. If you have a Williams Baptist College ID card you get a $1 discount. Hugh is proud to point out that he participates in the Williams Blue program for students, faculty and staff.
When we asked Hugh about his reasonable rates he remarked that he tries to keep the cost low since many of his clients are "senior citizens, on a fixed income."
Hugh is an active member and deacon at First Baptist Church of Pocahontas, and he is a 33rd Degree Mason.
He has been cutting hair for 51 years now, but when asked about retirement he laughs and says, "When they carry me out the door." He also points out that he retired at one point but the new barber didn't last long, so he came back to work.
Hugh would like to sell the shop but only to someone who "will buy it intact, like it is," and he wants to see the business remain open after he retires. But Hugh's in no hurry to stop barbering, noting that his favorite part about operating the barbershop is "meeting people, finding out what's going on and just talking to people."
Williams Baptist College Alumni: Higher learning beyond the classroom. Higher purpose beyond ourselves.
Abbi Siler ('08)
Becky Miles ('03)
Jim Flora ('00)