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Chester OwensChester Owens was presented with the Grinter Friends Salute for Wyandotte County Heritage at a Unified Government Commission meeting May 2. (Photo by Joe Brentano)
On May 2, Grinter Place Friends presented the sixth annual Grinter Friends Salute for Wyandotte County Heritage to Chester Owens, at the Unified Government Commission meeting, for his significant contributions to the promotion of Wyandotte County history.
Owens, a former Kansas City, Kan., council member, is a walking encyclopedia for the history of Kansas City, Kan. Many years ago he became intensely interested in Western University since a previous landowner of his house was associated with that institution of higher learning.
This Sumner High alumnus was the president of the Sumner High Alumni Association for many years. When he stepped down from that position, he continued as a guiding light. For many years, he willingly kept donated Sumner High memorabilia in his house. Through his and others’ efforts, a Sumner High Archives Room was established at Sumner Academy a few years ago. Owens headed that archives for a time before turning administration over to Granville O’Neal.
While Owens spent his earliest years in Arkansas, his parents moved to Kansas City, Kan., about the middle of the 20th century. That is when Owens became a Sumner High student. In the years to follow, Owens lived through the Civil Rights era. As a person intensely interested in history, Owens has continued to tell of the events of that significant period.
As a resident of northeastern Kansas City, Kan., this local historian has pursued not only the happenings of Western University, of Sumner High, and of the Civil Rights Era, but he also learned the details of other events and people of the Northeast. Owens was involved in the development of a film titled “Strugglers’ Hill.” The Kansas Humanities Council picked only two out of 50 proposals for production. This is how “Strugglers’ Hill” became a reality.
Owens is so intensely interested in local history that he has tried to learn the broad range of happenings throughout the county over time. This is why he has studied the Wyandot, Delaware, and Shawnee Indians, as well as the many towns and communities of the entire county. Since this local historian is so well versed in so many topics, many organizations and schools continue to ask him to speak. In recent years, he also taught “The History of Wyandotte County” at the Kansas City Kansas Community College.
Owens not only reads the histories that others have researched, but he pursues many topics of his own choosing, too. Due to the familiarity of Owens with so many topics, as well as with many available resources, other researchers often seek advice from Owens, who is now 80.
Chester Owens certainly is deserving of recognition for his decades of pursuing a variety of topics within the milieu of Wyandotte County heritage.
Mary Conrad, Sumner Academy librarian, is a board member with the Grinter Place Friends.