Robert Latham Owen

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Person.png Robert Latham Owen  Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Robert Latham Owen.jpg
BornFebruary 2, 1856
Lynchburg, Virginia
DiedJuly 19, 1947 (Age 91)
Washington, D.C.
Alma materWashington and Lee University
PartyDemocratic Party (United States)
Senate sponsor of the Glass-Owen Federal Reserve Act of 1913, which created the Federal Reserve System; which he later criticized as dominated by the largest banks.

Employment.png United States Senator from Oklahoma

In office
December 11, 1907 - March 4, 1925

Robert Latham Owen Jr. was one of the first two U.S. senators from Oklahoma. He served in the Senate between 1907 and 1925.


Born into affluent circumstances in antebellum Lynchburg, Virginia, the son of a railroad company president, Owen suffered an almost Dickensian reversal of fortune when his family was ruined financially by the Panic of 1873 and his father died while he was still in his teens.

Owen, who was part-Cherokee on his mother's side, responded by heading west to Indian Territory, where he built a new life as, in turn, a schoolteacher working with Cherokee orphans; a lawyer, administrator and journalist; a federal Indian agent; and the founder and first president of a community bank.


A Democrat active in many progressive causes, including efforts to strengthen public control of government, and the fight against child labor, Owen is especially remembered as the Senate sponsor of the Glass-Owen Federal Reserve Act of 1913, which created the Federal Reserve System. In discussions at the time, he resisted a campaign to put the Federal Reserve formally under the control of the banking industry, and the 1913 Act emerged broadly in line with Owen's compromise proposal, creating a central Federal Reserve Board nominated by the Government alongside twelve regional Federal Reserve Banks dominated by the larger banks.

Owen subsequently became highly critical of what he saw as the Federal Reserve's bias towards deflationary policies during the early 1920s and again in the early 1930s, which he attributed to excessive influence by the largest banks upon the Fed, and which he identified as largely responsible for causing the Great Depression. In 1920 Owen unsuccessfully sought the Democratic Party's nomination for the presidency.