SANTEE -- Funeral services were held Tuesday for Ellerbe Hightower III, a longtime high school track and cross country coach who would later serve the two sports for another 18 years as an official.
Hightower, known by many as “Coach B,” died last Sunday at his home in Santee. He was buried Tuesday in nearby Cameron, at the Jericho United Methodist Church cemetery.
Hightower was a teacher and coach in Fairfield County Schools. The school’s Class of 1991 remembered him as “a wonderful teacher and coach.”
Hightower served as an official at USATF and state high school track and cross country meets for 18 years.
Fellow track official Norman Venyah called it a “privilege” to work alongside Hightower.
“As a fellow track official, I had the opportunity to learn from him and work with him,” Venyah said in an email to scrunners.com. “He was the type of official that meet directors wished they had a full crew just like him.
Venyah said Hightower was a dedicated and dependable official “who knew the rules of his events and was fair to all athletes.
“He would arrive early and came prepared to work,” Venyah said.
Over the years, Hightower was seen as a mentor to several younger men and women just getting started as track officials.
“ ‘B’ was a very good teacher when I began officiating,” said USATF official George Illingworth. “He took the time to meet me before events and review the rule books and the case books. He made sure that I got to perform every position and task in the throws events.
“He was unfailingly positive in all situations,” Illingworth said. “His love for the sport was obvious.”
Hightower was a “go-to” person when Valerie Beesley first became a USATF official. “He was always there with answers to my questions,” she said, related to the behind-the-scenes for administrative work for the programs offered to South Carolina athletes, including young, open and masters in track and field and cross country.
“He would answer any of our questions and had many helpful tidbits that are not in the rule book to make the events we were officiating safer and better run,” Beesley said.
Beesley said Hightower never hesitated to publicly show his love for his children and grandchildren.
“He was so proud of his children, and then when the grandchildren came along you could see his chest just bursting with pride,” Beesley said, a sentiment that one of his fellow coaches saw displayed throughout their long friendship.
“He really enjoyed being around a coaching kids,” said York High coach Eddie Sanders, who first met Hightower in the early 1980s when the pair was coaching at separate high schools in the same conference.
“He was a good guy and was well liked by all the coaches,” Sanders said.
In an email to fellow state track and cross country coaches, SCTCCCA President and James Island High coach Dave Lee said the association is saddened by Hightower’s death.
“The S.C. Track & Cross Country Coaches Association would like to express our most sincere condolences to the Hightower family, Lee said. "B" Hightower was a dedicated coach and official for South Carolina's Cross Country and Track athletes and his presence is already missed.”
The Association is making a donation in Hightower’s name to the Jericho United Methodist Church.