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The Pattersons: A Novel (paperback and ebook, 2 Cities Press, 2012)

Pattersons-cover.jpgEllen Fletcher left an environmental law practice to marry Marshall Patterson, heir to an oil-and-gas company rooted in the energy and optimism of the frontier. Much to the consternation of his family, Marshall's academic interests seem certain to put him in the classroom rather than the boardroom. But at the height of his youthful ambitions, Marshall suffers an accident that causes him to abandon his dreams and accept his fate as a reluctant executive. Over the years, privilege takes its toll not only on Marshall, but also on his family who come to realize the cost of unfulfilled ambition.

The story unfolds in Birchwood Bay, Wisconsin where the Pattersons maintain a summer home. In ways that are both exhilarating and frightening, the Pattersons are drawn into a vortex destined to transform their lives and rescue their community from predatory corporations. Guidance comes in the form of Gus Grey Feather, a Native American elder who carries the wisdom of his people into the twenty-first century. Their story is one of renewal for the Patterson family, their community, and a culture poised at the fraying edge of the American Dream.

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1889: The Early History of Central Oklahoma (forthcoming, University of Oklahoma Press, 2018)


Each spring, Oklahomans celebrate the Run of 1889, a wild scramble for homesteads and town lots that earned Oklahoma City the moniker, "Born Grown." But tangible evidence of the big bang of Oklahoma history has long since been buried beneath a skyline of glass and steel. Save for marketing slogans and heroic statuary, the Run of 1889 and its remarkable back story have faded from collective memory.

Relying heavily on original sources and informed by recent scholarship,1889 is a social and cultural history of central Indian Territory (later, the six counties of central Oklahoma) through the first full year of settlement. Topics include the post-Civil War Treaties of 1866 and subsequent twists and turns in Anglo-Indian relations, the boomer movement of the 1880s, political maneuvering in Washington over "the Oklahoma Question," the rapid-fire development of communication and transportation in central Indian Territory, patterns of development in areas designated as townsites, and urban pioneers' reliance on frontier democracy to build cities. Illustrations will include sketches by Frederick Remington, arguably the most influential artist to capture the rapidly disappearing frontier.

In positing Oklahoma's story as a microcosm of Gilded-Age America, Hightower finds striking parallels between the late 19th century frontier and our own time. Aimed at both scholars and casual readers,1889 tells a familiar story in a new way.

Loyal to Oklahoma: The BancFirst Story (2 Cities Press, 2015)

Loyal_Cover_Cropped_for_Website.jpgGene and David Rainbolt founded the BancFirst Corporation during the energy bust of the 1980s, when bank failures set the tone for a decade that Oklahoma bankers would just as soon forget. Combining their disparate, yet complementary skills, the father-son team committed themselves to building Oklahoma, one community at a time. Their business model called for the development of a "super community bank" that emphasized the autonomy of member banks, even as it provided the products and services of a large institution. By 2015, the company reported $6.5 billion in total resources and included dozens of banks throughout Oklahoma.

Banking in Oklahoma, 1907-2000 (hardcover and ebook, University of Oklahoma Press, 2014)

Banking_in_Oklahoma,_1907-2000.jpgBetween 1907 and 1934, Oklahoma shed its frontier persona and wove itself into national networks of banking and commerce. After covering Oklahoma banking during the Depression and World War II and describing how Oklahomans experienced postwar prosperity, Hightower chronicles the rise and fall of Penn Square Bank, an event that was both cause and effect of the most severe economic downturn since the 1930s. The book closes on an upbeat note, with banks returning to profitability, even as they confronted challenges stemming from runaway technology and globalization. As former Oklahoma governor Frank Keating writes in his foreword, Banking in Oklahoma, 1907-2000 "is a necessary read for everyone who is interested in the state's special story."

Banking in Oklahoma before Statehood (hardcover and ebook, University of Oklahoma Press, 2013)


This lively book takes Oklahoma history into the world of Wild West capitalism. It begins with a useful survey of banking from the early days of the American republic until commercial patterns coalesced in the East. It then follows the course of American expansion westward, tracing the evolution of commerce and banking in the Oklahoma and Indian Territories from their genesis to the eve of Oklahoma statehood in 1907. According to Oklahoma City University president Robert Henry, "The original stories, many gathered here for the first time, of the men and women who brought working capitalism to the Twin Territories are both prescient and prophetic."

Frontier Families: The Records and Johnstons in American History (hardcover, Cottonwood Press, 2010)
Frontier-Families.jpgMidFirst Bank was founded in the early 1980s when George Records, then President of Midland Mortgage Company, bought a savings and loan in Stilwell, Oklahoma, to handle the money generated by the mortgage banking colossus that he operated alongside his late father-in-law, Ross Johnston. In this book, Hightower weaves the families of these pioneering businessmen into the rich tapestry of America's frontier experience. From the Pennsylvania and Kentucky frontiers to Scotch-Irish settlements in New York State and on to Oklahoma, the Records and Johnstons did their part to settle a continent, and their legacy survives in MidFirst Bank. Their family narratives mirror the American experience of westward migration.


Inventing Tradition: Cowboy Sports in a Postmodern Age (paperback, VDM Publishing, 2008; AkademikerVerlag, revised with unchanged content, 2012)
Inventing-Tradition-Cover.jpgAs a one-time working cowboy in the American Southwest, Hightower was intrigued to find cowboy sports in his adopted state of Virginia. In an observant-participant study that became his doctoral dissertation in sociology, he competed in dozens of cowboy contests and collected data on a group whose members (himself included) he dubbed "Old Dominion cowboys." Through a close reading of his field notes, Hightower identified themes that emerge from a typical day of penning, sorting, and cutting cattle. He analyzes these themes in the context of frontier history, identity formation, the Western genre of entertainment, social memory studies, and sport sociology, all in an effort to situate cowboy sports in a cultural and historical context. Today, these sports serve as avenues of identity formation and cultural expression. 


Penn Square: The Shopping Center Bank that Shook the World
Penn_Square_Bank.jpgPart 1 - Boom. Chronicles of Oklahoma, spring 2012 
Part 2 - Bust. Chronicles of Oklahoma, summer 2012 

The Riverboat Frontier: Early-Day Commerce in the Arkansas and Red River Valleys
RiverBoat.jpgChronicles of Oklahoma, fall 2011

Brother Bankers: Frank P. and Hugh M. Johnson, Founders of the First National Bank and Trust Company of Oklahoma City
BrotherBankers.jpgChronicles of Oklahoma, winter 2010-11

Willard Johnston: Homesteader and Frontier Banker, 1881-1904
LandRun.jpgChronicles of Oklahoma, winter 2009-10

The Businessman's Frontier: C.C. Hightower, Commerce, and Old Greer County, 1891-1902
CCHightower.jpgChronicles of Oklahoma, spring 2008

The Road to Russian Hill: A Story of Immigration and Coal Mining
RussianHill.jpgChronicles of Oklahoma, fall 1985; The New Rusyn Times, March/April 2016

Cattle, Coal, and Indian Land: A Tradition of Mining in Southeastern Oklahoma
Chronicles of Oklahoma, spring 1984CattleCoal.jpg