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.