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Bill Owens, First Black State Senator In Massachusetts, Dies At 84

BOSTON (CBS) - A trailblazing lawmaker in Massachusetts has died. Bill Owens was the first Black man to be elected to the State Senate.

He was a Democrat who served two terms, from 1975 to 1982 and again in 1989.

Owens had been in declining health and recently tested positive for COVID-19.

He was 84 years old.

"Bill Owens was our father, brother, uncle, grandfather, and friend. He was a transformational leader and kicked down barriers to access opportunities for people who were marginalized," his family said in a statement.

"He made his mark on the world stage from the United States to Europe, Asia, and Africa. He came from very humble beginnings in Demopolis, Alabama, moved to Boston at 15-years-old where he opened three neighborhood dry cleaning businesses in his 20's, went to Harvard University, became senator, and traveled the world – making an impact everywhere he went."

Senator Ed Markey served with Owens in the Massachusetts State House from 1973-1976.

"For 50 years, Bill Owens was my friend and inspiration. His presence grounded me in the realities of today's struggles, and his spirit lifted my gaze and countless others to the opportunities and justice that remained to be created for future generations. My deepest condolences go out to the Owens family, his friends, his loved ones, and all of those whose lives have forever been impacted by his pioneering presence and achievements. Bill Owens will be forever missed."

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