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Alvin M. Owsley
United States Envoy to Denmark

In office
July 16, 1937 – May 15, 1939
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded by Ruth Bryan Owen
Succeeded by Ray Atherton
United States Envoy to the Irish Free State

In office
July 27, 1935 – July 7, 1937
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded by W. W. McDowell
Succeeded by John Cudahy
United States Envoy to Romania

In office
September 15, 1933 – June 16, 1935
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
Preceded by Charles S. Wilson
Succeeded by Leland Harrison
National Commander of
The American Legion

In office
1922 – 1923
Preceded by Hanford MacNider
Succeeded by John R. Quinn
Personal details
Born (1888-06-11)June 11, 1888
Denton, Texas
Died April 3, 1967(1967-04-03) (aged 78)
Dallas, Texas
Nationality American
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Lucy Ball Owsley
Children 3 (Alvin Jr, David, and Lucy)
Alma mater
Profession Lawyer
Religion Christian Church
Military service
Allegiance United States
Service/branch  United States Army
Rank US-O5 insignia.svg Lieutenant Colonel
Battles/wars World War I

Alvin Mansfield Owsley (June 11, 1888 – April 3, 1967) was an American diplomat who served as the National Commander of the American Legion from 1922 to 1923, and later served as United States minister to Romania, the Irish Free State, and Denmark.

Early life and education

Owsley was born and raised in Denton, Texas, son of Alvin Clark and Sallie (Blount) Owsley. He remained in Texas with his family while working for his elementary and secondary education, and also while attending a term at North Texas State College in 1904. Later that year, he joined the Virginia Military Institute, where he developed into captain of Company A, and in 1909 graduated in the upper tier of his class. He completed his law degree at the University of Texas in 1912. He married Lucy Ball of Muncie, Indiana in May 1925. They had three children. He began work in 1912 with his father’s legal firm, but then served in the Texas Legislature in 1913–1914. In 1915, he became the county and district attorney in Denton County, a title he held until 1917.

World War I

Owsley traded his political and legal responsibilities to serve in World War I with the 36th Infantry Division. He was involved in many important World War I campaigns and offensives through 1918, especially the Meuse-Argonne Offensive. He was honourably discharged as a lieutenant colonel in 1919. His discharge was accompanied by several military decorations as well, including the French Legion of Honour and the Order of Polonia Restituta.

The American Legion

Owsley was present in 1919 at the formative caucus meeting of the American Legion in Paris, and was later elected National Commander in 1921, spending his year long term in support of veterans' issues, such as prosecution of war profiteers.[1] Using official records from Washington, Owsley found that over one hundred thousand war veterans were not receiving adequate financial support. During his 1922–1923 tenure as leader of the American Legion, Owsley made numerous speeches in which he openly endorsed and supported both Benito Mussolini and Fascism, as well as drew analogies between the fascist movement and the American Legion.[2] His priorities were on display at a San Francisco assembly just before retiring from his head position, where he stated that better hospitalization, rehabilitation, adjusted compensation, and Americanization were necessary for veterans.[3]


From 1923 to 1933 the legal partnership of Burgess, Owsley, Story, and Stewart was the focus of Owsley's career. With gained stability at home in Texas, in May 1925 Alvin married Lucy Ball, daughter of Frank Ball of the Ball Brothers. He attempted an unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic nomination to the United States Senate in 1928. In 1933, Owsley was rewarded for his efforts as a campaign speaker for Franklin D. Roosevelt with an appointment as the US Minister to Romania (1933–1935).[4][5] He also served as minister to the Irish Free State (1935–1937)[6] and completed his diplomatic work as minister to Denmark (1937–1939).[7] He resigned in 1939, with increased international tensions and Roosevelt's announcement for a third term as President.[8]

Later life

Though a Democrat, Owsley rejected Roosevelt's bid to run for a third term and campaigned for Wendell Willkie in 1940. Owsley remained in politics, but helping the Texas campaigns of Republicans Thomas Dewey and Dwight D. Eisenhower. In 1941, he started work for his father-in-law, Frank Ball, at the Ball Brothers' Glass Manufacturing Company, first in Muncie, Indiana, and in 1944 moving to Dallas, where he retired as vice president. He represented the American Legion in support of American soldier William S. Girard in his 1957–1958 manslaughter trial in Tokyo.[9] Owsley died in Dallas in 1967.


At the University of Texas, the Alvin Owsley Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Law was established in 1991 for his son Alvin M Owsley Jr.[10]


  1. “Wants Prosecution of War Profiteers,” The Atlanta Constitution. September 27, 1922: 5.
  2. Campbell, Alec. "Where do all the soldiers go? Veterans and the politics of demobilization." in "Irregular Armed Forces and their Role in Politics and State Formation", p. 110. Cambridge University Press, 2003.
  3. “San Francisco Assembly,” Time magazine. Vol. 2, no. 8. October 22, 1923
  4. "Chiefs of Mission for Romania". Retrieved April 20, 2017. 
  5. "Col. Owsley Is Accorded Unusual Honor By King Carol of Rumania". Muncie, Indiana. September 27, 1933. Retrieved April 18, 2017. 
  6. "Chiefs of Mission for Ireland". Retrieved April 18, 2017. 
  7. "Chiefs of Mission for Denmark". Retrieved April 18, 2017. 
  8. University of North Texas Archives
  9. Prisoner in the Dock, Time Magazine, September 9, 1957.
  10. "Alvin Owsley Endowed Presidential Scholarship in Law". Retrieved April 18, 2017. 

Further reading

External links