Thomas McAdory Owen
Archivist, Scholar, Lawyer, Leader
scholar and lawyer, Thomas McAdory Owen is best remembered as
founder of the Alabama State Department of Archives and History.
While a practicing attorney in Alabama, he developed a keen
interest in preserving the official public records and historical
documents of his home state. With his work, leadership and
guidance, the Legislature passed a statute creating the Alabama
State Department of Archives and History, February 27, 1901.
A few days afterward on March 2, 1901, Dr. Owen was named
Director of the Archives. He served a total of three, six-year
terms and was reelected to a fourth term in 1919, though his death
at the age of 53 on March 25, 1920, cut short the completion of his
Dr. Owen's ancestry included prominent Virginians, North
Carolinians and Alabamians. He was the first born of nine children
of William Marmaduke Owen and Nancy Lucretia McAdory. He was
graduated from the University of Alabama with highest honors,
receiving the AB degree. Still in his twenties his alma mater
bestowed upon him the honorary degree of Master of Arts and, in his
late thirties, the LL.D. degree.
Dr. Owen's tremendous energies and extensive interests are
reflected in his activities as a publishing scholar. Among numerous
distinguished works are his History of Alabama and Dictionary of
Alabama Biography (four volumes published after his death in
1921); updated Pickett's Annals of Alabama from 1819 to 1900;
"Bibliography of Alabama," 1887, and "Bibliography of Mississippi,"
1899, which appeared in the Reports of the American History
Association. In addition he edited a number of historical
He served as a founder of the Southern History Association, as
Secretary of the Alabama Historical Society, as founder of the
Alabama Library Association as well as the Alabama Anthropological
Society, as President of the Mississippi Valley Historical Society,
and as officer and leader in numerous other historical,
professional, and patriotic organizations.
Upon his death, his wife, Mrs. Marie Bankhead Owen, succeeded
Dr. Owen as Director of the Department of Archives and History.