Don Owen

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Donald Lynn Owen, known as Don Owen (1930 - June 17, 2012), was from 1954 to 1984 the pioneer news anchor at KSLA-TV, the CBS affiliate in Shreveport, Louisiana. In 1984, he was elected to the first of three six-year terms on the regulatory Louisiana Public Service Commission.


Contents

Background

A native of Beggs in Okmulgee County in east central Oklahoma, Owen as a teenager was stricken with polio.[1]His viewing public was largely unaware that Owen was crippled and wore a leg brace.

A Shreveport columnist once called him "the Walter Cronkite of the Shreveport media market, referring to the CBS national anchorman from 1962 until 1981, who at the time had a national reputation for objectivity.[2]Conservatives later found Cronkite biased toward the political left.

Broadcaster

Owen began his career in broadcasting at a radio station in Ada in Pontotoc County in southern Oklahoma. In 1953, he joined KFDX-TV, the NBC station in Wichita Falls, Texas. By January 1954, when he was twenty-three, Owen had accepted a position as an announcer for KSLA, the first station in Shreveport but on the air for only fifteen days.[3]

KSLA began broadcasting local news from the basement of the former Washington Youree Hotel in downtown Shreveport, now the site of Hibernia Bank. For a few weeks, Owen presented weather information but soon switched to news. Colleague Albert Martin "Al" Bolton, Sr. (born c. 1921), a member of a prominent banking family from Alexandria, then assumed long-term duties as the weather forecaster. Bob Griffin was the station's long-term sportscaster and the host of several local programs. In a 1964 interview with the since defunct Shreveport Journal, which under the president and publisher Douglas F. Attaway, owned KSLA during the 1960s, Owen explained that because he had always been interested in the news, he chose broadcasting as his career at an early age. Originally, Owen announced eleven half-hour programs per week, including the commercial minutes: "There was no Teleprompter, there were no videotapes to give you a second chance, you went on the air and you did it, either well or badly, but it went out."[3]

As KSLA's only news director for three decades, he set the standard in Shreveport television news. "He was Channel 12. He was the pioneer. He blazed the trail," recalls long-term KSLA photographer Semmie Buffin.[3]In October 1967, the demanding Owen hired Nita Fran Hutcheson, later a chamber of commerce official in her native Texarkana, Texas,[4] as the first female reporter in Shreveport television: "Every time I would get to the level of the bar that he would put up for me, he'd raise it and do it again." Hutcheson recalled. Owen as having been most protective of the trust that he developed over the decades from his viewing public.[3]Owen was also responsible for hiring Roseanne Colletti, who went on to report for WNBC, Margaret Pelley of NBC's Dateline, as well as local figures Wray Post, Tom Irwin, Carl Pendley, and Tony Taglavore.[3]

In 1963, 1964, and 1965, Owen was named "Broadcaster of the Year" by the Associated Press. He was a past president of the Louisiana and Mississippi AP Broadcasters and the Louisiana and Mississippi United Press International. Some of his articles were published in Shreveport Magazine. He also had great interest in hunting, fishing, and flight.[1]

Political career

When Edward Kennon stepped down after two terms on the now five-member Public Service Commission, Owen, a Democrat, entered the race to succeed him. He was elected in 1984, 1990, and 1996. In 1990, he defeated an Independent candidate named "Charlie Brown", 179,712 (78.4 percent) to 49,385 (21.6 percent).[5]In 1996, in a near image of the 1990 results, Owen defeated another Independent, Jim Crowley, 142,799 votes (74.5 percent) to 49,018 (25.6 percent).[6]

In 2002, however, Owen was narrowly unseated by then State Senator Foster Campbell, a fellow Democrat from Bossier Parish, who still holds this seat on the regulatory commission. In the 24-parish district, Campbell received 123,749 votes (50.7 percent) to Owen's 120,413 (49.3 percent).[7]


Death and family

Owen died of pneumonia on Father's Day 2012. His wife, the former Dagmar Oksenholt, a Danish-American and a native Shreveporter born in 1935, preceded him in death by four months. He was survived by their son, Daryl Hays Owen (born c. 1957) and wife, the former Ellen L. Berger, of McLean, Virginia, daughter Donna Lynn Owen Touchstone and husband Jack Robert Touchstone, a Shreveport businessman, the son of Jack Touchstone and Kathryn Stearns "Kaye" Touchstone (1925-2013),[8], and four grandchildren.[9] Owen's funeral service was private.[1]

Daryl Owen is an attorney/lobbyist who in 1991 founded Daryl Owen Associates, a government relations and strategic consulting firm. Considered an expert in energy policy, Owen began his career in Washington, D.C., as an aide and then chief of staff to former U.S. Senator J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., a Shreveport Democrat.[10] Daryl Owen recalls his father's pioneering journalism: "There was no rulebook, there were no guidelines. They had to make it up on the fly, what the ethics were, how to deal with some of the greater issues of the day. They had to desegregate the newsroom. They put the first black anchor on the air. He pioneered the industry.”[1]

On his 75h birthday in 2005, Owen was honored with the establishment of a scholarship in media and politics in his name through the Douglas Manship School of Communication at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge.[2]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 John Andrew Prime, "Don Owen, news veteran, former PSC member, dies", June 17, 2012. Shreveport Times. Retrieved on July 2, 2012.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Nancy Cook, "Shreveport pioneer newsman dies". arklatexhomepage.com. Retrieved on July 2, 2012.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Carolyn Roy, "Longtime KSLA anchor and news director Don Owen passes away". KSLA-TV. Retrieved on July 2, 2012.
  4. "Hutcheson retiring from Main Street Texarkana post effective May 31," May 2, 2012. Texarkana Gazette.
  5. Primary election returns, October 6, 1990. staticresults.sos.la.gov. Retrieved on July 2, 2012.
  6. Primary election returns, September 21, 1996. staticresults.sos.la.gov. Retrieved on July 2, 2012.
  7. General election returns, November 5, 2002. staticresults.sos.la.gov. Retrieved on July 2, 2012.
  8. Kathryn Touchstone. The Shreveport Times. Retrieved on January 19, 2013.
  9. Dagmar Owen obituary. Shreveport Times, February 14, 2012. Retrieved on July 10, 2012.
  10. Daryl Owen Associates, Inc.. owendc.com. Retrieved on July 10, 2012.
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