The 2016 Oscar Johnston Lifetime Achievement Award was posthumously awarded to the late Charlie Owen of Pima, Ariz. during the National Cotton Council’s (NCC) annual meeting Feb. 12 in Dallas, Texas.
Owen, an Arizona ginner, dedicated his career to advancing the U.S. cotton industry through cotton quality preservation, research, outreach to U.S. cotton customers, and employee education and outreach.
Accepting the award for Owens was Charlie’s wife Mary, along with his daughter Leevon Guerithault, and grandsons Paul Lovelis and Daniel Guerithault.
During the award presentation, NCC Chairman Shane Stephens cited a letter nominating Owen for the award, which said in part, “Charlie’s focus was the advancement of the cotton industry throughout his entire career.”
Created in 1997, the annual award is named after Oscar Johnston whose vision, genius, and tireless efforts were foremost in the molding and creating the NCC.
According to the Council, the award is presented to an individual, now deceased, who served the cotton industry through the NCC for years during their business career; who provided a positive influence on the industry; and demonstrated character, integrity, perseverance, and maturation during their service.
Owen was widely known in cotton circles. He started his cotton ginning business in the mid-1950’s with the Cotton Producers Association (CPA) in Phoenix. After working with CPA and building gins in the towns of Marana and Santa Rita, Ariz., Owen joined the Southside Gin in Coolidge which he managed from 1971-1978.
Next, he worked as a salesman for the Lummus Corporation for a decade, and was then hired to manage the Glenbar Gin in Pima in southeastern Ariz., a facility he sold to the current owners three years after helping build it.
Owen served as Glenbar’s general manager and became a stockholder. In 1996, he purchased the gin from the remaining stockholders.
He was active in the Arizona Cotton Ginners Association (ACGA) and the National Cotton Ginners Association (NCGA), serving as president of both groups from 1990-1991 and 1998-1999, respectively.
The ginner served as a NCC delegate for years, including as a NCC director from 1998-2001 and as the association’s ginner vice-president from 2004-2009.
In 1989, Owen was named the NCGA’s National Cotton Ginner of the Year, and received the NCC’s Harry S. Baker Distinguished Service Award in 2011. The NCGA honored his memory in 2016 by renaming its long-standing service award to the Charles C. Owen Distinguished Service Award.
Among Owen’s contributions to the cotton industry’s health included:
- His idea and work behind the scenes to create a video series funded by John Deere which covered all the steps of cotton production, harvesting, ginning; and warehousing;
- Collaboration with the USDA ginning laboratory in Mesilla Park, N.M. which was instrumental in the development and commercial introduction of high-speed roller ginning;
- Stellar support for the Western Ginners School (WGS) and his teaching gin management classes at WGS and other schools; and
- Leadership in the NCGA’s mill communications program which fostered open dialogue between the ginning segment and domestic textile industry, and his efforts to expand communication with overseas U.S. cotton textile customers.