2012 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll
Sumner High School, 1949
Chester Owens believes that it is his responsibility to do the things that God gave him the ability to do. And God gave him many. Throughout his lifetime, he has been a community leader, statesman, civil activist, business professional and humanitarian.
Owens moved to KCK from the rural south when he was in the 10th grade and started school at Sumner High School. He faced the challenges most new students face, but his was compounded by one fact: he was only 13 years old. He grew up attending a one-room school and the exposure to the older students’ studies advanced his learning, moving him ahead. This caused some challenges for him socially.
He attended college at the age of 16 at Sumner Junior College (based at Sumner High), the only local college African Americans were allowed to attend.
H.W. Sewing, the first man he met when he moved to KCK, gave him reasons to believe in himself. He encouraged him to further his education and told him he would hire him if he did. So Owens went back to school and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Pittsburg State University. True to his word, Sewing hired him and Owens had a life-long career at H.W. Sewing and Co., retiring in 1998 as president.
Owens’ community involvement has been extensive. In 1983 he was the first African American voted to the KCK City Council. He served two terms. He has been active in the Northeast Business Association, the Economic Opportunity Foundation, Cross Line Towers and the Sumner High School Alumni Association. During his post-high school years he collected articles and artifacts pertaining to Sumner High. He later donated these items to the school to help establish an Alumni Room, which has since been named in his honor.
He has received numerous awards throughout his lifetime including the NAACP Civil Rights award, Friends of Yates Black Man of Distinction, and United Way Volunteer of the Year.