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Darryl T. Owens

Darryl T. Owens


Jan 5, 2022


Darryl T. Owens

Louisville - Darryl T. Owens was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1937. He grew up in Fort Hill and recalled those days fondly. Stressing religion, family and education, his mother Dorothy Minter Owens raised a son who quietly became a giant as a civil rights leader, public servant and a man of many firsts.

Owens graduated from Central High School and left Kentucky to earn a bachelor's degree from Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio. There he pledged the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. and forged lifelong friendships.

"At Central State, we were lucky because everyone was invested in our success," Owens said while receiving a lifetime achievement award from the University. "They pulled our coats when they needed to. My friends and I joke about writing a book 'I am glad they didn't mind their own business. ' Our business was their business. They knew how hard the world would be and they knew that we were the ones who needed to go out into the world to make it a better place for less fortunate black people."

Go out into the world he did. Owens was accepted into Howard University Law School in Washington, DC where he earned a Juris Doctorate degree in 1962. Owens returned home to Louisville where he opened his law practice in 1965.

Owens devoted his life to public service and civil rights. As an attorney, political candidate and government official, he broke racial barriers by becoming the first African American to gain recognition on many fronts. He pounded on doors to assure access for those who had been left out and—once inside—worked to ensure that those rights endured.

From 1965 to 1969, Owens served as the first black assistant prosecutor of the Louisville police court. Ultimately, he would become the first black assistant Kentucky attorney general and the first black president of the Legal Aid Society. Owens served as NAACP President, Louisville branch from 1970 to 1976. He also served on the University of Louisville Board of Trustees, the Louisville Urban League and local and state government advisory committees.

He served as a juvenile court judge in 1980 and served as the trial commissioner of Jefferson County Court. He was a member of the Kentucky Workmen's Compensation Board and, from 1976 to 1983, Owens was instrumental in obtaining government grants to assist chronically ill patients, the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA), the Big Brothers program, homeless programs, vocational educational programs and various parks in Kentucky.

Owens was the first African American elected to the Jefferson County Fiscal Court. For 21 years, he served on the Jefferson County Fiscal Court representing C District. Then in 2005, he was elected to the Kentucky House of Representatives to serve District 43. Owens also became chairman of the Judiciary Committee during his time in the House. He introduced important expungement legislation. House Bill 64 included language to help ex-felons get jobs by expanding offenses that can be expunged and making it easier to remove felonies from their permanent record. Owens sponsored another bill to help reinstate voting rights for former felons.

He was a strong believer in the transfer of knowledge to future generations. One of his mentors was Georgia Powers, the first African-American and first woman elected to the Kentucky Senate. "In the olden days, if they had a meeting, everybody showed up," Owens once told an interviewer. "We showed up and we marched. We had leaders who we trusted. Young kids now don't understand the sacrifices that others have made so they can do what they do. That's our fault. We haven't told the story."

"Dedra and I always thought our father was bigger than life," said Debbie Owens, his oldest daughter. "Even during his illness, he had an ability to build relationships - doctors, nurses, techs and caregivers. They all loved him. He never lost his sense of humor. We laughed and loved until the very end."

He is survived by his wife Brenda Lucien Owens, daughters Deborah Owens (Ferguson Evans) and Dedra Owens of Washington, DC; stepson Desmond Sweatt and sisters Patricia Herring of Cleveland, Ohio, and Leslie Tucker of Phoenix, Arizona.

A viewing service will be held on Monday, January 10, 2022 from 3:00 to 6:00 pm at the Kentucky Center for African American Heritage located at 1700 West Muhammad Ali Boulevard, Louisville, KY 40203.

Funeral services will be held on Tuesday, January 11, 2022 at 10:00 am at St. Stephen Baptist Church located at 1008 South 15th Street, Louisville, KY 40210. Live streaming of the service will be available on St. Stephen's website

Masks are required for attendance at both events.

The family welcomes donations for the Darryl Owens Memorial Fund, in lieu of flowers . Checks should be mailed to the Central State University Foundation, P. O. Box 64, Dayton, OH 45401-0064. Donations can also be made directly by visiting

W.T. Shumake & Daughters Funeral Home in charge of arrangements

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