Longtime publisher owned the Conroe Courier

Rigby Owen Sr., Texas Press Association president in 1971-72, died Feb. 1, 2005 in The Woodlands.

Owen was born June 17, 1912, in Rosebud. In late 1918 Owen and his only brother, Irvin, moved with their parents to Oklahoma City via train.

He attended schools in Oklahoma City through the 11th grade and began his newspaper career there at age 12 delivering the Daily Oklahoman while attending junior high.

Owen graduated from high school in 1931 in Norman, Okla., at age 18.

In 1932 he moved to Cushing, Okla., to assist his older brother in distributing The Oklahoma City Times and the Daily Oklahoman.

In June 1932 Owen met his future wife, Jo Briley. They married Feb. 14, 1933.

On Sept. 25, 1933 Owen was hired as circulation manager of The Cushing Daily Citizen. During his two years there he converted all the routes to the “Little Merchant Plan” which allowed the carriers to do the collecting and pay for their papers.

In making this change Owen was able to double the paid circulation for the Citizen. While working for the Citizen he wrote a column titled “Red Visits the Rural Routes,” named for his red hair. The Owens’ first child, Sandra, was born in Cushing.

In August 1935 he became city circulation manager for the Little Rock Democrat but stayed only about one year before deciding to move on because he seemed to enjoy working on smaller newspapers.

In September 1936 he moved to Shawnee, Okla., and worked for the local newspaper in advertising and circulation. After about six months he moved to Ada, Okla., where he was hired as circulation manager for the Ada News. Two sons, Steve and Rigby, Jr. were born in Ada.

In 1937 Owen was appointed an “Honorary Colonel” commission on the staff of the Oklahoma Boy’s State for his enduring work with young newspaper carriers under the “Little Merchant Plan” he implemented for the Ada News. In January 1941 Owen was elected president of Ada’s Junior Chamber of Commerce.

Early in 1942 Owen resigned from the Ada News when he had an opportunity to buy one-fourth interest in the Opelousas Daily World in Opelousas, La. During the next few years Owen was able to purchase an additional 50 percent of the outstanding stock.

The Daily World was the only offset daily newspaper in the state at the time. During his nine-year tenure in Opelousas, Owen co-owned nearby newspapers, including The Eunice New Era, The Lafayette Pictorial and The Lafayette Progress.

Owen was elected to the Louisiana Press Association board of governors in April 1944 and elected president of LPA April 12, 1947.

In 1951 Rigby sold his controlling interest in the World. In December of that same year Owen bought The El Campo News. He sold the News in March 1953. While in El Campo, Owen co-owned newspapers in Port Lavaca and Weslaco. On Sept. 1, 1953, Owen bought the Conroe.

He was elected vice-president of Texas Gulf Coast Press Association on May 10, 1954 and in May 1955 became president.

In July 1971 he was elected president of Texas Press Association. At that time, he was only the second publisher in the United States to have served as president of two different state press associations.

On Sept. 1, 1971 Owen sold the Conroe Courier to Universal Publishing, Inc., Wesley Attaway, chairman of the board. Owen served on the board for several years.

Other newspapers Owen owned prior to the sale of the Courier included The Tomball Tribune, The Cleveland Advocate and The Huntsville Pictorial.

He also acquired an FM radio permit to begin operating radio station KNRO in Conroe. In 1976 he bought radio station KMCO in Conroe and the call letters later changed to KIKR.

Rigby is survived by his wife of 72 years, Jo Briley Owen, and children, Sandra Owen Powell and son-in-law, Jesse of Conroe, Steve Owen and daughter-in-law, Candy of Huntsville and Rigby Owen, Jr., and daughter-in-law, Lucinda of Conroe; and 10 grandchildren; and 17 great- grandchildren.