Hightower Theodore Kealing, teacher, writer, editor, and distinguished African Methodist Episcopal layman, was born in Waco, Texas, in 1860. He grew up in McLennan, Fayette, and Washington counties, where he attended school. He was among the first generation of Blacks to attend schools established during Reconstruction. After graduating from high school he went to Iowa, where he graduated from Tabor College in 1881. He returned to Waco the next year and joined the faculty of Paul Quinn College, where he subsequently was principal. He began his journalism career at Paul Quinn, when he edited a periodical called The Colored American Journal with Rev. C. W. Porter. In 1883 Kealing moved to Austin, where he taught and became a principal in the Eighth Ward school, Robertson Hill. He served until 1888. During this time he organized the Central Texas District Teachers Association.
Kealing belonged to the African Methodist Episcopal Church, was active in church affairs, and had a serious interest in the history of African Methodism. In 1885, while he was a teacher in Austin, he published a History of African Methodism in Texas. He also served as president of Paul Quinn College, was chosen in 1888 to head the A.M.E. Book Concern, the denomination's publishing house, and in 1896 became managing editor of the church's literary quarterly, the A.M.E. Church Review. He served as editor until 1912. As an officer in the denomination and an influential person through his position as editor of the Review, Kealing participated in the debates on issues that affected the church, African Americans, and the nation as a whole during the early years of the twentieth century. Paramount among those issues was discrimination aimed at Blacks and what Blacks should do in response. Kealing could not be called a militant on the order of William E. B. Du Bois or Reverdy C. Ransom, but he spoke out nevertheless against segregation and from time to time urged Blacks to resist violence rather than ignore it as his friend Booker T. Washington proposed.
Kealing was married to Celia Shaw. The couple had four daughters and one son. The culmination of Kealing's career came with his appointment as president of Western University in Quindaro, Kansas. He died there in 1918, and his body was taken back to Waco for burial. Kealing Junior High School in Austin, the city's first Black junior high school, opened in 1930 near the site where Kealing worked.