Owsley, Alvin Mansfield (1888–1967)

By: Richard L. Himmel

Type: Biography

Published: 1976

Updated: May 1, 1995

Alvin M. Owsley, Texas lawyer and diplomat, son of Alvin Clark and Sallie (Blount) Owsley, was born at Denton, Texas, on June 11, 1888. He attended Denton and Dallas schools and studied for one session in 1904 at North Texas State Normal College. In the same year he entered Virginia Military Institute, where in 1909 he was captain of Company A and graduated thirty-fifth in a class of 132. Owsley studied law at the University of Texas and graduated in 1912. He joined his father's legal firm in Denton and shortly thereafter served in the Thirty-third Texas Legislature (1913–14). From 1915 until 1917 he was county and district attorney in Denton. During World War I he served in the Thirty-sixth Infantry Division as adjutant and participated in the Champagne-Marne campaign and the Meuse-Argonne offensive in 1918. He was honorably discharged in July 1919 with the rank of lieutenant colonel. His decorations included the French Legion of Honor with the rank of commander, the Order of Polonia Restituta (Poland), and the Confederate Service Cross.

In 1919, after a brief period at the Middle Temple and Lincoln's Inn in London, he was appointed assistant attorney general before the Court of Criminal Appeals in Texas. Owsley left Texas government in 1920 or 1921. In the latter year he was appointed assistant director of the Americanism Commission of the American Legion; later that year he served as director of the commission. He had been present in 1919 at the formative legion caucus meeting in Paris and was elected national commander at the New Orleans national convention in 1921. He made more than 640 speeches in support of veterans' issues during his year-long tenure as national commander. He returned to Dallas in 1923 and helped form the legal partnership of Burgess, Owsley, Story, and Stewart. He continued his law practice in Dallas until 1933, but took time off to campaign unsuccessfully for the Democratic nomination to the United States Senate in 1928.

In June 1933 Owsley's previous work as midwestern campaign speaker on behalf of Franklin Roosevelt was rewarded by his appointment as United States minister to Romania. In May 1935 he transferred to the Irish Free State, where he served two years before completing his diplomatic work in Denmark. He resigned from the foreign service in 1939 and briefly practiced law in Indianapolis before taking a position in 1941 with his father-in-law, Frank C. Ball, as assistant to the president of Ball Brothers' Glass Manufacturing Company in Muncie, Indiana. In 1944 Owsley and his family returned to Dallas, where he worked until retirement as vice president of the Ball Company's operations in Texas. Though Owsley was a Democrat, he rejected Roosevelt's rationale for running for a third term and campaigned nationally for Wendell Willkie in 1940. He brought his noted oratorical gifts to the Texas campaigns of Republicans Thomas Dewey in 1944 and 1948 and Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1952. He was a member of the American and Texas Bar associations and a trustee of the Southwestern Legal Foundation; he served as state chairman of the 1949 citizens' committee supporting adoption of the Hoover Report on Economy in Government. He married Lucy Ball of Muncie, Indiana, in May 1925, and they had three children. Owsley was a member of the Christian Church. He died in Dallas on April 3, 1967.

Marion S. Adams, Alvin M. Owsley of Texas: Apostle of Americanism (Waco: Texian Press, 1971). National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 54. Dallas Times Herald, April 4, 1967.


  • Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
  • Lawyers
  • General Law


  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Richard L. Himmel, “Owsley, Alvin Mansfield,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 03, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/owsley-alvin-mansfield.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995

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