NEW YORK (AP) — Major Owens, a New York City Democrat who served 12 terms in the U.S. House and was credited with helping to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, has died at age 77.
Owens died Monday night at NYU Langone Medical Center of renal failure and heart failure, his son Chris Owens said. The family posted on Owens’ Facebook page that “the brave heart of Congressman Major Owens stopped and he joined the ancestors.”
Owens represented a Brooklyn congressional district from 1983 to 2007.
“New York City has lost a champion who exemplified the very best of what a Congress member can be,” City Comptroller John Liu said in a statement. “His work in helping to pass the Americans with Disabilities Act will serve as one of his lasting legacies.”
Owens was born in Collierville, Tenn., and earned a bachelor’s degree from Morehouse College and a master’s of library science at Atlanta University. He worked as a librarian at the Brooklyn Public Library before entering politics.
In the 1960s, Owens worked on anti-poverty programs in the administration of New York City Mayor John Lindsay, and he was elected to the state Senate in 1974.
He was elected to the U.S. House in 1982, succeeding Shirley Chisholm, who retired. Owens’ diverse Brooklyn district included heavily Caribbean-American neighborhoods, upscale Park Slope and a large Hasidic area in Crown Heights.
City Council member Jumaane Williams said Owens “fought to reduce poverty and for the rights of working class New Yorkers.”
Asked to assess his own legacy at a 2006 retirement party, Owens said he was most proud of an amendment to secure funding for 107 historically black colleges. He also said, “I spent my time and energy organizing people. I certainly didn’t do it by raising money. Fundraising was my greatest failure.”
After leaving Congress, Owens taught in the Department of Public Administration at Brooklyn’s Medgar Evers College.
Owens’ survivors include his wife, Maria; five children; and eight grandchildren.
His son Chris, a Brooklyn political activist, ran unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination to succeed his father. Yvette Clarke won the election and has held the seat since Owens retired.
Another son, Geoffrey Owens, is an actor who played Bill Cosby’s son-in-law Elvin on “The Cosby Show.” He is currently appearing in the Broadway production of “Romeo and Juliet” starring Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad.
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25 photos Launch gallery
1. Nite | to the tune of @cnn 😞
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2. Got so much work to do but I just wanna stay in bed and binge watch #Gameofthrones and start the new season of #OnceUponATime. I know I can't be the only one. Right? Ha 💤🦁🍂 #saturday
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3. Mommy's weekend turn up ❤️👶🏾💕🍼 Wouldn't trade it for nothing. #TeamNoSleep lol #HesMyBiggestBlessing ✨
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4. One of them oh shit mont we made it feelings … this shit still be unreal 💯💪🏾 @remyboymonty1738
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5. Tickets Available October 14 @ticketmaster.
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6. People magazine Home edition has raided my house! Get a sneak peek into the bedroom life of the Leakes and see other parts of my home now at PEOPLE.COM
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7. They want to kick you when you down, but kick it when you up
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8. Got my advance copy of #Mafia3 at @gamestop. Get yours via link in the bio #Mafia3 #Ad
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9. This is some of the cast and our diverse team of writers in the writer's room creating funny sh*t for @nbcmarlon what a fun room! Lots of jokes, great stories and having a great time doing what we love... making people laugh and feel something. Look out for our show next year @nbcmarlon we bringing sitcoms back to NBC
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10. #HappySunday☀️Thank you @4everbrandy101 💛💡💛
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12. Thank you all in advance 💋💋💋 #Repost @urbansvintage・・・#TarajiPHenson's memoir #AroundTheWayGirl will be available everywhere TODAY October 11th! Will you be purchasing a copy? #UrbansVintage
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21. Goodnight - here's a song
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22. Words can't explain the feeling that I have right now.....God is good. look momma I made it. #Harts #Blessed #WhatNow #comedicrockstarshit #4DaysAway
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