Major Robert Odell Owens (born June 28, 1936) is a New York politician and a prominent member of the Democratic Party. He is also a former Congressman, having represented the state’s 11th Congressional district in the United States House of Representatives. He retired at the end of his term in January 2007 and was succeeded by Yvette Clarke.
Owens was born in Collierville, Tennessee. He has a bachelor’s degree from Morehouse College and a master of science degree from Atlanta University. Owens was a librarian before entering politics. He was elected to the New York state Senate in 1974 as a Democrat.
Owens represented a very diverse district located within Brooklyn, New York. His district included low income areas of Brownsville, a large Hasidic area of Crown Heights, the heavily Caribbean areas of Flatbush and East Flatbush, and the upscale neighborhood of Park Slope.
Although Owens won the Democratic primary with just 45% of the vote, he was re-elected in 2004 with 94% of the vote. He retired from the House at the end of his term in January 2007. Due to the extreme Democratic lean of his district, there was little surprise that he would be replaced by another Democrat in the 2006 election. Yvette Clarke, who ran against him in the 2004 primary and won the 2006 primary nomination to succeed him, was elected with 89 % of the votes.
Major Owens was a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
The character Mark Richardson in the popular television program The West Wing is believed to be based on Owens. Richardson plays an African-American Congressman from Brooklyn who looks a lot like Owens.
Owens is nicknamed the “Rappin’ Rep” since he writes raps. His rap songs are often political and Progressive in nature.
Owens is now a faculty member in the Department of Public Administration at Medgar Evers College.