Major Owens was only second to the pioneering Shirley Chisholm who represented Brooklyn with the backing and support of the diverse community – which included Caribbean-American neighborhoods, Park Slope and Crown Heights –but factoring first as the first Black to ever serve in the capacity of congressional representative.
Former Brooklyn Rep. Major Owens, the first male, Black from Brooklyn and legislator who helped pass the Americans with Disabilities Act during his 24 years in Congress died on Monday. He was 77.
Owens served 12 terms in the House of Representatives from 1983 to 2007.
He succeeded Cong. Chisholm when she retired.
“Today, our country mourns the loss of a devoted public servant who dedicated his life to lifting up the voices of those who too often go unheard,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a statement.
“From the classroom to the halls of Congress, Congressman Owens taught all of us what it means to serve with strength, compassion, and commitment to the public good.”
New York City Comptroller John Liu said: “New York City has lost a champion who exemplified the very best of what a Congress member can be. His work in helping to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act will serve as one of his lasting legacies.”
U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer said Owens “had many outstanding traits but none finer than his passion for justice, which burned so brightly in his soul throughout his career and his life.”
“He never forgot his roots, and he always believed the power to be used for good,” his son Chris Owens reportedly stated, “and always committed to the empowerment of those with less power.”
According to Jamaican Charley Simpson “Major was dependable and true to his word. I lost my citizenship papers and passport one year and I went to him and in no time, they were replaced.”
Simpson said he invited the congressman to Jamaica to help in establishing a partnership with Vere Technical School and a similar institution here in America. The Jamaican resident said the congressman did not hesitate and travelled to St. Elizabeth and throughout the rural areas of the island to visit the school.
Some have reflected on occasions when Cong. Owens rushed to survey hurricane ravaged Caribbean islands soon after devastations.
Owens reportedly died at NYU Langone Medical Center.
The cause of death was reported to be renal failure and heart failure.
The family posted on Owens’ Facebook page that “the brave heart of Congressman Major Owens stopped and he joined the ancestors.”
Owens was a fierce advocate for Brooklyn in the 1960s. He worked tirelessly on anti-poverty programs with then Mayor John V. Lindsay. He served as head of the community development Agency and subsequently was elected as NYS senator in 1974.
After leaving Congress in 2006, Owens taught in the Department of Public Administration at Medgar Evers College.
He allegedly said then that: “I spent my time and energy organizing people. I certainly didn’t do it by raising money. Fundraising was my greatest failure.”
Owens is survived by his wife, Maria; five children and eight grandchildren.
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