Alvin C. Owsley, politician, son of Henry and Louisiana (Mansfield) Owsley, was born in Johnson County, Missouri, on April 8, 1856. He received his early education in the West when his father, a doctor, moved the family in 1863–64 from Missouri to California. In 1872, at the age of sixteen, Owsley graduated with high honors from St. Vincent's College at Los Angeles, where he supported himself by delivering newspapers. For a short time after graduation, he managed circulation for the Los Angeles Star, then moved to Sedalia, Missouri, where he began the study of law. Owsley's career in Texas began modestly in 1873 when he became a public school teacher in Denton. By the next year he was examiner of teachers for Denton County, a position he held until 1884. He also participated in the founding of Texas Normal College (now the University of North Texas) in 1890. He served as secretary on the first board of regents. In 1875 he received a license to practice law in Texas. In 1882 he was licensed to practice in the circuit and district courts for the Northern District of Texas. He received a doctor of laws degree from Nashville College in 1903.
In 1888 Owsley was elected to the Twenty-first Texas Legislature. During his first term in office he campaigned for an antitrust law and served on standing committees covering the judiciary, internal improvements, public buildings and grounds, and penitentiaries. As a representative to the Twenty-second Legislature, he helped frame a Railroad Commission law while serving on the internal improvements committee. During this session he chaired the penitentiary committee. Owsley also served a third term in the legislature in 1894. He was selected as a presidential elector from the Fifth District in 1892 and 1904. He served one term as a district judge in the sixteenth judicial district of Texas (1926–28). During this time he heard 473 criminal cases and 634 civil cases. It was his goal to conduct court business economically, yet with responsibility to the full demands of law. In 1934 he was appointed special chief justice of the Texas Supreme Court. Owsley was the first president of the Denton Chamber of Commerce and was a member of the Masonic and Knights of Pythias lodges. He was a Democrat and a member of the Christian Church. On April 8, 1880, he married Sallie M. Blount, daughter of Judge J. M. Blount of Denton. They had eight children. Owsley died on April 27, 1938, at his home in Denton, Texas. He was buried in the Odd Fellows' cemetery in Denton.
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Lewis E. Daniell, Personnel of the Texas State Government, with Sketches of Representative Men of Texas (Austin: City Printing, 1887; 3d ed., San Antonio: Maverick, 1892). Buckley B. Paddock, ed., A Twentieth Century History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis, 1906). Texas Legislature, House Journal, 1889, 1891.
Founders and Pioneers
Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Richard L. Himmel,
“Owsley, Alvin Clark,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed August 10, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
May 1, 1995