John Brantley Hightower, who directed museums ranging from New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and Southstreet Seaport to Norwalk’s Maritime Aquarium, died July 6 in Newport News, Va., where he had led the expansion of The Mariners’ Museum. He was 80 years old, and had lived in Ridgefield from 1983 to 1988, with homes on High Ridge and Main Street.
Born in Atlanta, Ga., he grew up in New York City, graduated from Yale University in 1955, and served in the U.S. Marines. He became executive director of New York State Council on the Arts in 1964, appointed by then Gov. Nelson Rockefeller. Over six years during which the council’s budget grew from $500,000 to $22 million, he “championed a grass-roots approach to the arts,” according to a New York Times obituary, and “gave money to a host of community theater companies, art outreach projects for poor neighborhoods and troupes touring rural areas.”