John Owen

21st Governor of the State of North Carolina - 1828 to 1830

Date Born: August 21, 1787

Date Died: October 9, 1841

Place Born: Bladen County, NC

Place Buried: St. Bartholomew's Cemetery, Pittsboro, NC

Residence: Chatham County, NC

Occupation: Politician


John Owen was born on August 21, 1787 in Bladen County, NC, the son of Thomas Owen and Eleanor (Porterfield) Owen. He briefly attended the University of North Carolina in 1804 but did not earn a degree.

In 1812, John Owen was first elected as one of two men to represent Bladen County in the NC House of Commons of the:
- 37th General Assembly that met in 1812
- 38th General Assembly that met in 1813

On June 24, 1813, John Owen married Lucy Ann Brown, daughter of Thomas Brown and Lucy (Bradley) Brown of Bladen County, and they had five known children. John and Lucy lived at Owen Hill, a plantation up the Cape Fear River from Elizabethtown, where he spent most of his life.

Both his father and his wife's father were noted Patriots and Colonels in the Bladen County Regiment of Militia during the American Revolution, and both served in many important skirmishes and battles during the war.

In 1819, John Owen was first elected to represent Bladen County in the NC Senate of the:
- 44th General Assembly that met in 1819
- 45th General Assembly that met in 1820

In 1824, John Owen was named to the Council of State, which he retained until 1827.

In 1827, John Owen was again elected to represent Bladen County in the NC Senate of the:
- 52nd General Assembly that met from 1827-1828

In 1828, the General Assembly elected John Owen as the next Governor of North Carolina and he served two terms from December 12, 1828 to December 18, 1830. During his tenure, Gov. Owen promoted education and served concurrently as President of the University of North Carolina Board of Trustees. He was nominated for a third term as governor, but declined the nomination.

In 1835, John Owen was a prominent member of the NC Constitutional Convention; there, he supported enfrancishement of land-owning black citizens and opposed religious tests for officeholders.

In 1839, John Owen presided over the first state convention of the emerging Whig Party; three weeks later, he served as President of the National Whig Convention in Harrisburg, PA. John Owen was offered the Vice-Presidential position on the Whig Presidential ticket of William Henry Harrison; he turned down the nomination. Had he accepted, John Owen might have become President of the United States following Harrison's death early in office, instead of John Tyler.

John Owen retired to his farm in Chatham County and died on October 9, 1841. He was buried in St. Bartholomew's Cemetery in Pittsboro, NC.


John Owen (August 1787 – 9 October 1841) was the Democratic governor of the state of North Carolina from 1828 to 1830.

Owen was born in Bladen County, North Carolina; he was the son of Thomas Owen, a judge and member of the state legislature. He briefly attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, but did not earn a degree.

In 1812, Owen was elected to the North Carolina House of Commons and served there for two years; he was later elected to one year in the North Carolina Senate (1819-1820). Named to the North Carolina Council of State in 1824, Owen returned to the state senate in 1827 but was elected Governor by the General Assembly in December 1828, narrowly defeating Richard Dobbs Spaight, Jr. in a vote of 96 to 92.

Owen served two consecutive one-year terms as governor, during which he promoted education and served concurrently as President of the University of North Carolina Board of Trustees. He was nominated for a third term as governor, but declined the nomination; that same year, he lost by one vote (to Willie Mangum) a bid to represent North Carolina in the United States Senate.

In 1835, Owen was a prominent member of the North Carolina Constitutional Convention; there, he supported enfrancishement of land-owning Negro citizens and opposed religious tests for officeholders.

Although during his earlier political life, Owen affiliated himself with the Democratic Party of Andrew Jackson, in 1839, he presided over the first state convention of the emerging Whig Party; three weeks later, he served as president of the National Whig Convention in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Owen was offered the vice-presidential position on the Whig presidential ticket of William Henry Harrison; he turned down the nomination. Had he accepted, Owen might have become President of the United States following Harrison's death early in office instead of John Tyler.

Owen retired to his farm in Chatham County, North Carolina, where he died in October 1841; he is buried in Pittsboro, North Carolina.


John Owen, governor of North Carolina, was born in Bladen County, NC in August 1787. His education was attained at the University of North Carolina. Owen first entered politics as a member of the NC House of Commons, a position he held from 1812 to 1814. He also served as a member of the NC Senate from 1819 to 1820 and 1827 to 1828; and was a member of the Council of State from 1824 to 1827. Owen next won election to the governorship in 1828. He went on to win re-election to a second term in 1829. During his tenure, appropriations were secured for construction of canal locks at Weldon. Also, educational improvements were endorsed; and the offices of county clerk and sheriff became elected positions. After leaving the governor’s office, Owen ran unsuccessfully for a seat in the U.S. Senate. He later served as a member of the 1835 NC Constitutional Convention. He also chaired the first Whig Party state convention in 1839, as well as serving as president of the National Whig Convention that same year. In 1840, Owen declined an offer to run as William H. Harrison’s vice president. John Owen passed away on October 9, 1841, and was buried in the St. Bartholomew’s Cemetery in Pittsboro, NC.

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