James Carney (Jim) Owen, 65, long-time history teacher at Conway High School, passed away August 1, 2013, in Little Rock, Ark. Born December 29, 1947, in Jonesboro, Ark., Jim grew up in Conway and graduated from CHS. He played football on the 1964 Wampus Cat state championship football team and ran sprint events in track. His state record for the 220-yard dash still stands. He received many athletic awards, including the Frank Robins Award as outstanding athlete in 1965.
Jim left Conway to attend the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, on a full track scholarship and earned his B.A. in History and English. After teaching at Gateway School in Little Rock, he lived in Germany for seven years, teaching history for the Department of Defense school system. Returning to Conway and CHS in 1985, he taught history, including Advanced Placement World History and AP European History. He earned a Master’s degree in history from UCA.
Mr. Owen taught with passion for 38 years, 28 of which were at CHS. He often opened his classes with “Greetings my wards, my lambs,” and he peppered his lectures with anecdotes from his years in Europe. He inspired students of all ability levels, and the 1997 Wampus Cat yearbook was dedicated to him. In 2002, he was selected to participate in a National Endowment for the Humanities summer program in London.
When he retired from CHS, about 100 former students attended a school board meeting to support Mr. Owen. Often described as the “best teacher ever,” he influenced thousands of students, dozens of whom became teachers themselves. Many paid respects during his last months.
In 1989, the Arkansas ACLU named him Civil Libertarian of the Year for “courage in maintaining the principles of liberty and dedication to the principles in the Bill of Rights.” Mr. Owen had assigned his students portions of “The Glory and the Dream.” After some parents objected to the book’s language and school administrators pulled it from the curriculum, Mr. Owen successfully fought against its banning.
Jim was an avid hunter, fisherman, and reader. He was a loving husband and father who valued all ties among family and friends. Jim is survived by his wife of 32 years, Sherry Townsend Owen, daughter, Sarah, and son, Hunter. Also surviving are his sisters Paula Garland of Ocean Springs, Miss., Ellen Sowell (Mike) of Tulsa, Okla., his brother Wilbur (Betty) of Petit Jean Mountain, Ark., and many nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents, W. B. , Jr. and Ruth Owen, and his brother Donald R. Owen.
Memorials may be made to the Arkansas Hospice Foundation, c/o Ottenheimer Center, 14 Parkstone Circle, NLR, AR 72116, or a charity of your choice. Visitation is Sunday 3-5 p.m. at Roller-McNutt Funeral Home in Conway with funeral services on Monday at 2 p.m. at Conway First United Methodist Church. Interment will be at Oak Grove Cemetery beside his grandparents, W. B., Sr. and Olie Owen.