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Richard Owen
Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York

In office
December 19, 1973 – September 30, 1989
Appointed by Richard Nixon
Preceded by Edward Cochrane McLean
Succeeded by Deborah Batts
Personal details
Born (1922-12-11)December 11, 1922
New York City, New York
Died November 20, 2015(2015-11-20) (aged 92)
New York City, New York

Richard Owen (December 11, 1922 – November 20, 2015) was an American composer and United States federal judge in the Southern District of New York. He was born in New York, New York.

Life and judicial career

Born to an opera-loving attorney, Owen grew up in New York, New York. He served in the United States Army Air Corps from 1942 to 1945, and then received an A.B. from Dartmouth College in 1945. He received an LL.B. from Harvard Law School in 1950, and entered private practice in New York City from 1950 to 1953. He was also an assistant professor at New York Law School from 1951 to 1953. In 1953, Owen became an assistant United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, also serving as a special assistant U.S. attorney general in 1954. He was a senior trial attorney in the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice from 1955-58. He returned to private practice in New York City from 1958 to 1974, also working as associate counsel to the New York State Commission on Alcoholic Beverage Laws from 1963-64.

On November 15, 1973, Owen was nominated by President Richard M. Nixon to a seat on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York vacated by Edward C. McLean. Owen was confirmed by the United States Senate on December 13, 1973, and received his commission on December 19, 1973. He assumed senior status on September 30, 1989. From 1960 until his death, Owen was married to Wisconsin-born Lynn Rasmussen, an opera singer. He died on November 20, 2015.

Musical career

Owen was also a composer, and "dabbled in music all his life".[1] He studied piano as a child and again once he finished law school. He studied composition with Vittorio Giannini and Robert Starer.[2] His opera Abigail Adams, based on the lives of the second president and his wife, was first produced in 1987. Five of his art songs were published by the General Music Publishing Company between 1962 and 1973; they are known for their declamation and dramatic qualities.[3]

Operas and other musical works

  • Rain (opera) 2003
  • Dismissed With Prejudice, opera, mid-1950s, presented under the auspices of the New York City Bar Association[4]
  • A Moment of War, one-act opera, 1958
  • A Fisherman Called Peter, sacred concert piece/opera, 1965[5]
  • Mary Dyer, opera, 1976
  • The Death of the Virgin, opera, libretto by Michael Whitney Straight, 1980/1983[6]
  • Abigail Adams, opera, 1987
  • American Stereopticon, orchestral piece, 1988, unpublished[7]
  • Tom Sawyer, opera, 1989


published by General Music Publishing/Boston Music

  • The Impulse (1966, text by Robert Frost from The Hill Wife)
  • I Saw a Man Pursuing the Horizon (1966, text by Stephen Crane)
  • Patterns (1973, text by Amy Lowell)
  • There were many who went in Huddled Procession (1966, text by Stephen Crane)
  • Till we watch the Last Low Star (1962, text by Witter Bynner)



  1. Villamil, p. 285
  2. Villamil, p. 285
  3. Carman et al, p. 256
  4. Sturm, online article
  5. mentioned by Sturm and in Villamil, p. 285
  6. Set in 1600, it refers to the painting by Caravaggio; a copy of the vocal score manuscript is located at the New York Public Library.
  7. A copy of the manuscript is located at the New York Public Library
  8. Copies of the manuscripts for the three unpublished Dickinson songs are located at the New York Public Library.


  • Carman, Judith E., with William K. Gaeddert, Rita M. Resch, and Gordon Myers (2001). "Art Songs in the United States, 1759-1999". Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-4137-1. 
  • Villamil, Victoria Etnier (1993). "A Singer's Guide to The American Art Song 1870-1980". The Scarecrow Press, Inc.. pp. 98–100. ISBN 0-8108-2774-3. 

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
Edward Cochrane McLean
Judge of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York
Succeeded by
Deborah Batts

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