Alvin M. Owsley

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Alvin Owsley
Alvin Owsley.jpg
United States Ambassador to Romania
In office
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded by Charles S. Wilson
Succeeded by Leland Harrison
United States Ambassador to Ireland
In office
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded by W. W. McDowell
Succeeded by John Cudahy
United States Ambassador to Denmark
In office
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded by Ruth Bryan Owen
Succeeded by Ray Atherton
Personal details
Born (1888-06-11)June 11, 1888
Denton, Texas
Died April 3, 1967(1967-04-03) (aged 78)
Dallas, Texas
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Lucy Ball
Children Alvin Jr, Lucy, and Thomas Davis Owsley
Profession Lawyer
Religion Christian Church

Alvin Mansfield Owsley (June 11, 1888 – April 3, 1967) was an American diplomat, lawyer, and soldier.

Personal life[edit]

Owsley was born and raised in Denton, Texas, son of Alvin Clark and Sallie (Blount) Owsley. He remained in Texas with his family while working for his elementary and secondary education, and also while attending a term at North Texas State College in 1904. Later that year, Owsley joined the Virginia Military Institute, where he developed into captain of Company A, and in 1909 graduated in the upper tier of his class. Owsley completed his law degree at the University of Texas in 1912. He married Lucy Ball of Muncie, Indiana in May, 1925. They had three children. Owsley died in 1967 in Dallas, Texas.

Professional life[edit]

Owsley began work in 1912 with his father’s legal firm, but then served in the Texas Legislature in 1913–1914. In 1915 he became the county and district attorney in Denton, a title he held until 1917.

World War I[edit]

Owsley traded his political and legal responsibilities to serve in World War I with the 36th Infantry Division (United States). He was involved in many important World War I campaigns and offensives through 1918, especially the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. Owsley held the title of lieutenant colonel when he was honourably discharged in 1919. This honourable discharge was accompanied by several military decorations as well; for instance, the French Legion of Honour, the Order of Polonia Restituta and the Confederate Service Cross.

American Legion[edit]

Owsley was present in 1919 at the formative legion caucus meeting of the American Legion in Paris, France and was later elected National Commander in 1921, spending his year long term in support of veterans' issues, such as prosecution of war profiteers.[1] Using official records from Washington, Owsley found that over one hundred thousand war veterans were not receiving adequate financial support. During his 1922–1923 tenure as leader of the American Legion, Owsley made numerous speeches in which he openly endorsed and supported both Benito Mussolini and Fascism, as well as drew analogies between the fascist movement and the American Legion.[2] His priorities were on display at a San Francisco assembly just before retiring from his head position, where he stated that better hospitalization, rehabilitation, adjusted compensation, and Americanization were necessary for veterans.[3]

Law practice[edit]

From 1923 to 1933 the legal partnership of Burgess, Owsley, Story, and Stewart was the focus of his career. With gained stability at home in Texas, in May 1925 Alvin married Lucy Ball, daughter of Frank Ball of the Ball Brothers. He attempted an unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic nomination to the United States Senate in 1928.

Diplomatic service[edit]

In 1933 Owsley was rewarded for his efforts as a campaign speaker for Franklin D. Roosevelt with an appointment as the U.S. minister to Romania (1933–35).[4] He also served terms as Ambassador to the Irish Free State (1935–1937)[5] and completed his diplomatic work in Denmark (1937–39).[6] Owsley resigned as the Minister to Denmark and Iceland in 1939 with increased international tensions and Roosevelt's announcement for a third term as President.[7]

Later service[edit]

Though a Democrat, Owsley rejected Roosevelt's bid to run for a third term and campaigned for Wendell Willkie in 1940. Owsley remained in politics, but helping the Texas campaigns of Republicans Thomas Dewey and Dwight D. Eisenhower.

In 1941, Owsley started work for his father-in-law, Frank Ball, at the Ball Brothers' Glass Manufacturing Company, first in Muncie, Indiana and in 1944 moving to Dallas, Texas where he retired as vice president.

Owsley presented the American Legion in support of American soldier William S. Girard in his 1957-1958 manslaughter trial in Tokyo.[8]

Namesake and honors[edit]

Today at the University of Texas, there is the Alvin Owsley Jr. Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Law dedicated to the memory of Alvin and Lucy Owsley.


  1. ^ “Wants Prosecution of War Profiteers,” The Atlanta Constitution. September 27, 1922: 5.
  2. ^ Campbell, Alec. "Where do all the soldiers go? Veterans and the politics of demobilization." in "Irregular Armed Forces and their Role in Politics and State Formation", p. 110. Cambridge University Press, 2003.
  3. ^ “San Francisco Assembly,” Time magazine. Vol. 2, no. 8. October 22, 1923
  4. ^ State Department, Ambassadors to Romania
  5. ^ State Department, Ambassadors to the Irish Free State
  6. ^ State Department, Chiefs of Missions
  7. ^ University of North Texas Archives
  8. ^ Prisoner in the Dock, Time Magazine, September 9, 1957.
  • Adams, Marion S. 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.
  • “1940,” Time magazine. Vol. 34 no. 6. August 7, 1939.
  • Political Graveyard

External links[edit]


Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Charles S. Wilson
United States Ambassador to Romania
September 15, 1933 to June 16, 1935
Succeeded by
Leland Harrison
Preceded by
W. W. McDowell
United States Ambassador to Ireland
July 27, 1935 to July 7, 1937
Succeeded by
John Cudahy
Preceded by
Ruth Bryan Owen
United States Ambassador to Denmark
July 16, 1937 to May 15, 1939
Succeeded by
Ray Atherton