Well Known Lifelong Kansas Leader Is Actually A Cowboy

For the Love of Horses


Perhaps more often recognized as a political and financial leader, being a cowboy remains closest to his heart.

“I’ve had lots of great experiences, met many good people, cowboys were the greatest of all,” Dave Owen declared.

The retired Lenexa man served as Kansas lieutenant governor, worked for Senator Bob Dole and the list goes on.

“Still the closest to my heart is the opportunity to become a professional rodeo cowboy,” Owen insisted. “I traveled several years competing in a number of the biggest rodeos in the world.”

Raised on a southern Arkansas cotton farm, Owen had horses as a youth but little indication of becoming a cowboy,

“My family moved to Johnson County when I was still in grade school and had a farm near Spring Hill,” Owen said.

He graduated from Shawnee Mission High School then Ottawa University majoring in economics while playing basketball and running track. “Wayne Angell, who became governor of the Federal Reserve Bank and Kansas bank owner, was my professor,” Owen said.

During his early financial career working for Capital Federal, Owen became acquainted with professional calf roper Junior Garrison, Marlow, Oklahoma.

“My life made a major direction turn when I met Junior,” Owen admitted. “I liked horses but didn’t know anything about roping until Junior Garrison encouraged me to take up the sport.”

A hardworking young man with athletic prowess, Owen learned calf roping from “the best. Junior was the world champion calf roper two times in 1966 and 1970.”

Time was spent at Garrison’s training facility gaining essential skills to become a successful calf roper.

“Junior Garrison was a horse whisperer before the term became popular,” Owen credited. “He had about 30 head of horses in training and Junior taught me about calf roping and horsemanship. I was never as fast a calf roper as Junior, but I did have the most outstanding coach.”

With local rodeo calf roping success, Owen got his card to compete in the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.

“I traveled with Junior Garrison entering rodeos throughout the summer,” Owen said. “We hit all of the big ones, Salinas in California, Cheyenne Frontier Days in Wyoming. The Cowboy Christmas over the Fourth of July when we’d compete at two or three rodeos a day.”

His fasted calf roping run was 9.2-seconds at Monte Vista, Colorado. “I never won a big rodeo but loved the competition and the camaraderie,” Owen said.

Becoming friends with his competitors, Owen has fond memories of roping with and against world champions. “I was closely acquainted with Shoat Webster, Sonny Worrell, Willard Moody, and Roy Cooper,” Owen said. “Along with Junior Garrison those cowboys are among the best ropers who ever lived.”

After his days on the professional rodeo circuit, Owen continued calf roping and team roping as a hobby. “I team roped with Junior Garrison at several Old Timers Rodeos, including Strong City, Kansas,” Owen said.

Rodeo interests expanded to his family as well. “My three daughters had girl’s rodeo cards and competed successfully in barrel racing and goat tying,” Owen said.

Meanwhile Owen was founder and president of two banks in the Kansas City area. “I became involved with politics in 1968 when the state was redistricting,” Owen said.
Serving as a state senator for Johnson County from 1967 to 1973, Owen was the 38th lieutenant governor of Kansas. He served under Governor Robert Docking from 1973 to 1975.

Raising funds for Bob Dole’s first run for U.S. Senate in 1968, that started Owen’s lifelong service with Dole.

After his lieutenant governor term ended, Owen didn’t seek re-election and served as Dole’s political-financial adviser and campaign fundraiser.

Owen ran Dole’s campaign for vice president with President Ford in 1976. The effort failed, but the position was Owen’s ticket into the inner circle of the presidency.

“I attended all the briefings with President Ford, his Cabinet and the campaign committees,” Owen said. “I was at the White House a lot.”

After running unsuccessfully for governor in 1982, Owen became chairman of the Kansas Republican Party. He helped Dole get re-elected to the Senate in 1986 and worked on Dole’s first campaign for president in 1988.

Experienced in public company mergers, Owen was regional manager of Stephens, Inc., investment banking firm headquartered in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Supporter of Ottawa University and the Angell Snyder School of Business, Owen established the David C. Owen Leadership Institute.

“Perhaps nothing’s more important for future generations than equipping leaders with servant principles and strong moral compass,” Owen said.

With 60 years of experiences in financial services, Owen was ICOP Digital, Inc. co-founder and corporate executive officer (CE0). The global market leader in motion video products for first responders received the 2008 Department of Defense Patriot Award.

Additionally, Owen was a member of The Greater Kansas City Fellowship of Christian Athletes for 16 years.

With land and agriculture operations in several counties now dispersed, Owen no longer has horses or participates in rodeo events.

“I have many friends who are working cowboys,” Owen said. “I did have an opportunity to help with their cattle roundups several years,” he noted.

His wife, Laura Owen was appointed Secretary of Commerce by Governor Joan Finney in 1991.

“We have six children, 10 grandchildren, and two great grandchildren.” Owen said. “One of our granddaughters has an interest in horses, so I’m encouraging her to become more involved.”

Currently, Owen serves as president-CEO of Equivest, LLC, a commercial real estate firm.

“I am a board member of Lenexa Baptist Church Foundation and mainly help with their fundraising,” the cowboy-at-heart summarized.

Dave Owen, well known Kansas government leader and banker, competed in calf roping at the Flint Hills Rodeo in Strong City.

Junior Garrison, world champion calf roper, Marlow, Oklahoma, was mentor and coach for Dave Owen, left, to become a Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association competitor.

Football star George Brett and champion roper Shoat Webster, right, went hunting with Dave Owen, center, at Lenapah, Oklahoma, prominent steer roping community.

Champion rodeo roper Willard Moody visited with Dave Owen at a rodeo in Casa Grande, Arizona.

Dave Owen and his wife Laura, former Kansas Secretary of Commerce, are with six of their grandchildren.


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