Ed Owens, a man known for his grand grin and his wonderful way with people, retired from public service in August with a smile on his face and a tear in his eye.
In a heartfelt, and sometimes emotional, farewell address to well-wishers who gathered in Huntsville, the former TDCJ deputy executive director closed out 30 years of government service on August 17.
A Huntsville native, Owens, 49, began his long career in criminal justice in June 1977 as a correctional officer at the Ellis Unit outside his hometown. He went on to work as a probation counselor and as a parole case worker before returning to the state prison system in March 1982 as a correctional officer at the former Pack Unit I near Navasota. He quickly rose through the security ranks, and in September 1990, was promoted to senior warden at TDCJ’s hospital facility in Galveston. He later served as senior warden at the then-Pack II Unit and at the Clements Unit in Amarillo before being appointed a regional director in Huntsville. In October 1997, Owens was promoted to deputy director for Support Services and served as director of the agency’s Operations Division before being named deputy executive director in August 2002. In March of this year, Owens was tapped by Gov. Rick Perry to serve as executive director of the Texas Youth Commission; Owens was named conservator of that agency in June.
Texas Board of Criminal Justice Chairman Christina Melton Crain read a proclamation from Gov. Perry thanking Owens for his three decades of public service during the ceremony held at his alma mater, Sam Houston State University. Four state legislators also took the podium to express their appreciation and admiration of Owens’ service to the state. Several speakers described Owens as “a people person” whose ever-present smile served as a calming influence when times grew tense.
“You are just a really good man,” State Rep. Lois Kolkorst of Brenham told Owens.
Owens sat at the head table with his wife, Rissie, son, Trey, and his parents, Edward Sr. and Hattie. A number of cousins and other members of his extended family sat among the overflow crowd.
“I want to take the opportunity to thank everyone who made this possible for me today,” Owens said. “Regardless of where I was or where I moved to, my mother and my father, my wife and my son were always there to support me.”
As for the immediate future, Owens plans to spend some time aboard his Harley Davidson motorcycle. In jest, he was presented with bright pink riding outfit trimmed in black lace.
“This is better than a funeral because when I leave here I’ve got gifts to take home with me,” he said about his parting gifts.
Owens ended his career by thanking all of those who guided and encouraged him over the years.
“I want to thank those who always pushed me to do more, always seeing more in me than I saw in myself,” he said. “It was your guidance that made me what I am today. Lastly, I want to thank the thousands of employees who I was fortunate enough to work with. I want to thank you for your commitment to public safety, which is the core of this great agency. As I leave you, I ask you to continue to work together to accomplish the mission of this great agency. However, I want you to remember that it comes with a lot of sacrifices. But it’s very rewarding in the end, which you can see by my experiences today.”