Otis Lee Hightower Jr., 70, of Ambler, an IRS auditor and later an audit supervisor for the U.S. Department of Defense, died Thursday, Jan. 30, of cancer at his home.
Born in Wilmington to Otis Sr. and Nettie Hightower, he graduated from De La Warr High School, where he played basketball and baseball. He earned a bachelor’s degree in business accounting from Delaware State University and an MBA from Antioch University.
Early in his career, he spent eight years as an IRS auditor in the Office of the Regional Inspector, based in Center City. For the next 25 years, he was an audit supervisor for the Defense Contract Audit Agency, traveling throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. In that role, he audited and approved millions of dollars in government contracts before retiring in 2010.
“He loved it,” said his wife, Faith Williams-Hightower. “He loved anything with numbers.”
In 2013, Mr. Hightower volunteered for an initiative funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the nonprofit CFE Fund. The project opened financial empowerment centers in Denver; Lansing, Mich.; Nashville; Philadelphia; and San Antonio, then expanded nationwide. It provided free financial counseling for those without access to a financial adviser.
Mr. Hightower “took his love of numbers and taught financial literacy,” his wife said.
He also served as an adjunct faculty member at both Burlington Community College and Community College of Philadelphia, teaching accounting, statistics, economics, and personal finance.
He volunteered for various nonprofits and civic groups, including as a board member at Mattie N. Dixon Community Cupboard in Ambler and the Campaign for Working Families Inc.; board chairman of the Campaign for Working Families, Philadelphia; treasurer of the Ambler NAACP; and a member of the Whitpain Township Planning Commission.
He received many professional certifications and community service awards, his family said.
Mr. Hightower was a longtime member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. He also enjoyed his affiliate membership with Philadelphia Carats, an organization of black women that also includes husbands in social activities. The husbands are known as “Carateers.” Mr. Hightower’s last attendance was at a July 2018 dinner in Macon, Ga.
He was proud to be a Mason, his family said, and served in many high-ranking roles with Masonic lodges in Pennsylvania and nationally.
“He was a leader and a mentor of men,” said Clifford E. DeBaptiste, a former mayor of West Chester, who met Mr. Hightower in 2007 through the Masons.
“He commanded respect and authority,” DeBaptiste said of the 6-foot-4 Mr. Hightower. “But he also had a soft glove.”
Despite illness that had limited his activities in recent months, Mr. Hightower kept busy to the end, fulfilling his responsibilities to the Masons and his family.
He enjoyed following sports and men’s fashions, playing golf, traveling, and taking pictures. “As a passionate photographer, his legacy was creating memories of life through his lens,” his family said.
Mr. Hightower married Faith Williams on Sept. 9, 1999, and they enjoyed two decades together. He was a longtime member of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Spring House.
Besides his wife, he is survived by children Shirron, Jennifer, and Andre O’Donnell; three granddaughters; and three sisters.