CORVALLIS - Jim Hightower, a political commentator with a no-holds-barred radio call-in show, will give a free public lecture at Oregon State University on Tuesday, Oct. 26, at LaSells Stewart Center in Corvallis. It will begin at 7:30 p.m.

Hightower's appearance is sponsored by the OSU Convocations and Lectures Committee. A Texas native, Hightower created Hightower Radio, a muckraking news and public issues call-in program, in 1991. He rejects the liberal label that some use to describe his views, preferring instead to call himself a populist.

"I believe in the first amendment, I believe in power to the people and I believe in America," he said. "I'll call that a populist."

Hightower said his radio program spotlights "crime in the suites as well as crime in the streets," and invites callers to address outsider viewpoints overlooked or trivialized by the popular media.

He is the author of "There's Nothing in the Middle of the Road But Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos."

Hightower has had a varied career in public life. During the 1970s, he founded the Agribusiness Accountability Project, a social research agency that investigated the impact of monopolies on farm and food policies. His work with the project resulted in the co-authorship of two books, "Eat Your Heart Out" and "Hard Tomatoes, Hard Times."

He served as the Texas Commissioner of Agriculture for eight years and was editor of "The Texas Observer," a biweekly magazine of investigative reporting, for four years. As Texas Commissioner of Agriculture in the 1980s, his policies focused on small farmers, organic farming and international markets. Texas livestock exports rose from $6 million to $77 million during that time.

His awards are as varied as his career. He received a Good Guy Award from the Texas Women's Political Caucus, the Silver Medal of the Knesset from the Israeli parliament, an honorary doctorate from Columbia College of Chicago, and a listing in Utne Reader's 1995 100 visionaries issue. Hightower's talk will be interpreted for the hearing impaired.

Hightower is the first of three speakers scheduled for this year's lecture series sponsored by the OSU Convocations and Lectures Committee. Dayton Duncan, author of books on Lewis and Clark and the American frontier, will speak on Jan. 26, 2000. Ray Suarez, a news reporter for NPR, will be at OSU on April 28, 2000.

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Machelle Kennedy, 541-737-1562