Major Owens (1936-2013) was the first professional librarian and first African American librarian to serve in the United States Congress. Mr. Owens was a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from 1983-2007. He represented the 11th Congressional District of New York. While in Congress, Owens introduced legislation which would have required that only professional librarians be appointed to serve as the Librarian of Congress, however the legislation never became law. Owens is also an alumni of Morehouse College and the Altanta University Library School (Atlanta University is now Clark-Atlanta University). In addition, Mr. Owens was a librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library, and contributed essays for The Black Librarian in America Revisited and Educating Black Librarians: Papers from the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the School of Library and Information Services, North Carolina Central University. After leaving the United States Congress, Owens became a visiting scholar at the Library of Congress's Kluge Center.
To view a copy of the legislation Major Owens introduced regarding the professional/educational requirements of the Librarian of Congress, click on the link below:
Major Owens is the father of actor Geoffrey Owens. Geoffrey Owens is best known for his role as Elvin Tibideaux on the NBC sitcom, "The Cosby Show." Starring Bill Cosby as Dr. Cliff Huxtable, the head of an African American family living in Brooklyn, New York, "The Cosby Show" aired on NBC from 1984 until 1992.
See related posts: William Henry Smith: Librarian for the U.S. House of Representatives, 1881-1891 ; Henry Proctor Slaughter: Compositor for the United States Government Printing Office, Bibliophile, Collector, and Newspaper Editor ; and John F.N. Wilkinson and the Law Library of Congress.
Major Owens passed away at the age of 77 on Monday, October 21, 2013 at the New York University Langone Medical Center in Manhattan.
Sources: “Congressman Major Owens.” African American History Month: Profiles. Library of Congress, n.d. Web. 22 Sept. 2010. ; Scott, Diane R. Celebrating African American Librarians. Feb. 2009: 7. Print. ; “Major Robert Odell Owens.” Black Americans in Congress. Office of the Clerk, U.S. Capitol, n.d. Web. 28 Sept. 2010. ; “New Faces on Capitol Hill.” Ebony 38.4 (1983): 38, 40. Print. ; “Cong. Major Owens Honored in New York.” Jet 80.7 (1991): 29. Print. ; Jordan, Casper Leroy, and Josey, E.J. “A Chronology of Events in Black Librarianship.” Handbook of Black Librarianship. Ed. E.J. Josey and Marva L. DeLoach. 2nd ed. Lanham: Scarecrow, 2000. 14-15. Print. ; Dawson, Alma. “Celebrating African American Librarians and Librarianship.” Library Trends 49.1 (2000): 60. Print. ; Owens, Major R. “The Specter of Racism in an Age of Cultural Diversity: The New Paradigm for African American Librarians.” The Black Librarian in America Revisited. Ed. E.J. Josey. Metuchen: Scarecrow, 1994. 285-297. Print. ; Woodson, Almeta Gould. “Fifty Years of Service: A Chronological History of the School of Library Service Atlanta University, 1941-1979; the School of Library and Information Studies Atlanta University, 1979-1989; the School of Library and Information Studies, Clark Atlanta University, 1989-1991.” Georgia Librarian 28.3 (1991): 77. Print. ; Owens, Major R. “The Voice of the Librarian Must Be Heard.” Educating Black Librarians: Papers from the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the School of Library and Information Services, North Carolina Central University. Ed. Benjamin F. Speller, Jr. Jefferson: McFarland, 1991. 61-67. Print. ; “Owens, Major Robert Odell, (1936-).” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. United States Congress, n.d. Web. 6 Nov. 2011. ; Urschel, Donna. “U.S. Congressman Owens Named Distinguished Visiting Scholar at John W. Kluge Center.” News from the Library of Congress. Library of Congress, 26 Dec. 2006. Web. 14 June 2012. ; H.R. 906: To Require That the Librarian of Congress Be Appointed among Individuals with Specialized Training or Significant Experience in the Field of Library and Information Science. Washington, D.C. : U.S. G.P.O., 1993. Print. ; Jefferson, Julius C. “The Black Male Librarian: An Endangered Species.” The National Diversity in Libraries Conference. Louisville Marriott Downtown, Louisville, KY. 3 Oct. 2008. Pdf. ; “Geoffrey Owens.” Internet Movie Database, n.d. IMDB.com, Inc. Web. 19 Jan. 2013. ; “The Cosby Show.” Carsey-Werner.net, 2002. The Carsey-Werner Company, LLC. Web. 19 Jan. 2013. ; Bobinski, George S. Libraries and Librarianship: Sixty Years of Challenge and Change, 1945-2005. Lanham: Scarecrow, 2007. 100. Print. ; "Making a Difference: Our Librarian in Congress." American Libraries 32.6 (2001): 56-59. Print. ; Fried, Joseph P. "Major Owens, 77, Education Advocate in Congress, Dies." The New York Times. 23 Oct. 2013: A27. Print. ; "Major R. Owen Dies at 77." American Libraries Direct 23 Oct. 2013:n.pag. Web. 1 Nov. 2013.