A Life of Fellowship: Nick Owens (1974–2020)

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be given to the Nick Owens Memorial Fund to support St. Jude children and their families to fight childhood cancer, which was Nick’s lifelong philanthropic passion.

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Nick Owens — Official Small Business Administration Headshot

Legendary Washington connector and advisor, champion of American business owners, proud Mississippian, Nicholas N. Owens succumbed to cancer in Washington, DC on October 24, 2020, surrounded by loved ones. He was 45.

A devoted Southern Baptist, he embraced and embodied the core Christian value of “FELLOWSHIP” in all of its forms. Whether with CEOs, elected officials, or friends, Nick had a superpower in convening nonpartisan congregations of influencers and power brokers for spirit-filled moments of fellowship.

The son of Tommi Owens, Nick was born on November 28, 1974, in Mobile, Alabama, and grew up in Wiggins, Mississippi, where his unshakeable love for the Magnolia State and his love of politics took root.

Nick began his political career regularly volunteering for then-U.S. Congressman Trent Lott. Even as Mr. Lott rose up the ranks to U.S. Senate Majority Leader, Senator Lott would always take Nick’s telephone calls and encouraged Nick to remain politically active.

“Nick was an avid supporter of mine beginning at a very young age,” reflected Senator Lott on Nick’s passing. “I admired Nick and his positive attitude about everything he did. It was my pleasure to support Nick during all of his activities in Washington. He will be sorely missed.”

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Nick with President George W. Bush

Inspired by Senator Lott and driven by his own self-determination, Nick moved to Washington, DC in 2001 to serve on the Transition Team for President George W. Bush, and later served as the Assistant to the Chairman & Director of External Affairs at the National Credit Union Administration for NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar.

“Nick was instrumental in the success of my NCUA chairmanship, but he was more than that,” said Mr. Dollar. “Nick Owens became a face for NCUA and credit unions throughout Washington that still benefit the agency and industry today.”

Current NCUA Chairman Rodney E. Hood said, “Nick Owens impressed me with his intelligence and humility the moment we met nearly two decades ago. He was both the consummate professional and loyal friend. Each of us is better for having known Nick Owens.”

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Nick with current National Credit Union Administration Chairman, Rodney E. Hood

As a member of the Senior Executive Service, Nick was appointed by President George W. Bush in 2006 as the U.S. Small Business Administration’s fifth National Ombudsman and Assistant Administrator for Regulatory Enforcement Fairness. It was in this role that Nick was able to act as a national servant to his beloved Mississippi — and to the entire Gulf region — by working to improve responsiveness for disaster lending and contracting issues following Hurricane Katrina.

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Nick with Senator Roger F. Wicker

“Nick Owens was a Mississippian through and through,” remarked Senator Roger F. Wicker. “His big personality gave him a platform to promote his home state and the causes he cared about to anyone who would listen.”

In 2009, Nick leveraged his professional expertise to launch his own enterprise: Magnolia Strategy Partners, LLC, a bipartisan government relations and corporate strategic consulting firm. As the CEO, Nick became the “go-to consultant for many small-business Davids facing the regulatory big government Goliath.” Small business owners would come to Nick when regulations threatened to harm their companies, which were often ill-equipped to otherwise resolve costly disputes. Nick would doggedly fight for his clients when faced with regulatory burden and built his legacy in protecting small business growth across the country.

In 2012, The Wall Street Journal published Nick’s commentary, “The Red Tape Diaries — One Small Business Owner’s Struggle Against Bureaucracy” during National Small Business Week to build a case for “a regulatory regime that’s fair, accountable, and allows our economy to grow again.” He was also appointed to be an advisor to the Small Businesses for Sensible Regulations, a project led by the National Federation of Independent Business.

Nick was an early and proud supporter of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 bid for the White House. Following the election, Nick joined President Trump’s Transition Team as an Economic — Business Issues Advisor.

“Nick was unafraid to champion policies and candidates when it challenged the status quo — even when that meant getting in the arena himself. Like so many others, I will miss Nick, his passion for politics, and his fellowship,” remarked Senator Roger F. Wicker.

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Nick and his dear friend, Lenwood Brooks, with President Donald J. Trump

In 2020, Nick was appointed to serve as the Co-Chair for the COVID-19 Legal and Government Affairs Task Force, where he helped businesses and nonprofits more effectively navigate pandemic-related legal, regulatory, and public policy complexities.

With the uncanny ability to remember the names and personal details of everyone he met with photographic recall, Nick built his illustrious career as a brilliant strategist, a straight shooter, and a legendary networker. He would often say that his life was a fine example of the American Dream; that he lived the life he envisioned for himself as a little boy.

In addition to his dedication to his faith and Mississippi, he loved magnolias, country cooking — particularly his mother’s chicken and dumplings — gospel music, and always, Fellowship. He had a singular, outsized spirit and his energy was boundless. Nick stood out in any room in his bespoke sport coats and could be found holding court at various watering holes in Washington, often the Trump Hotel and Harry’s Restaurant, perched up in the same seat where he could see everything and engage with everyone. Nick loved traveling, aviation, gospel music, visiting old friends, and he always knew where to find the best meal, drink, or hotel in any town.

Even in his last days, Nick remained faithful to his upbringing and would quote from a favorite hymn that God on the mountain is still God in the valley.

As Mr. Dollar summarized Nick’s legacy, “In his nearly twenty years in Washington, Nick Owens left a mark that will last for decades to come — both in policy and, most importantly, in the lives he touched and the friendships he generated with all of us who believe Washington can be a better place and good government can make lives better across this great nation.”

Nick is survived by his partner Mary Owens, his aunt and uncle Patricia and Bob Finlay, and his beloved French Bulldog, Vern. He was preceded in death by his mother, Tommi Owens.

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Nick and the love of his life, Mary Margaret Owens

A public visitation service is taking place from 3–5 PM on Saturday, October 31 at Cunningham Turch Funeral Home in Alexandria, VA. For more information, please call Cunningham Turch Funeral Home at 703–549–1800. At a later date, a graveside service will be held in Wiggins, Mississippi, where Nick will be laid to rest next to his mother and grandparents in his cherished hometown.

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OFFICIAL STATEMENTS:

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Governor Haley Barbour

“Nick’s love for politics and people was incubated in small town Mississippi, much like my own. He never forgot where he came from, and he was keenly aware of what his Southern authenticity brought to the table in his role as a public servant and as an advocate for small business. May we all be inspired by his loyalty to country, hometown, and fellowship.”

Former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour

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Senator Roger F. Wicker (R-MS)

“Nick Owens was a Mississippian through and through. His big personality gave him a platform to promote his home state and the causes he cared about to anyone who would listen. A man of principle, Nick was unafraid to champion policies and candidates when it challenged the status quo — even when that meant getting in the arena himself. Like so many others, I will miss Nick, his passion for politics, and his fellowship.”

Senator Roger F. Wicker

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Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott

“Nick was an avid supporter of mine beginning at a very young age. I admired Nick and his positive attitude about everything he did. It was my pleasure to support Nick during all of his activities in Washington. He will be sorely missed.”

Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott

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Current NCUA Chairman, Rodney E. Hood

“Nick Owens impressed me with his intelligence and humility the moment we met nearly two decades ago. He was both the consummate professional and loyal friend. With communication and leadership skills that were beyond comparison, Nick laid the foundation for the creation of NCUA’s Public and Congressional Affairs office during his time of public service at the agency. Each of us is better for having known Nick Owens. All who knew him absolutely adored him. He will leave a void in our lives, personally and professionally. “

Rodney E. Hood, National Credit Union Administration Chairman

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Former NCUA Chairman, Dennis Dollar

Statement of Former NCUA Chairman Dennis Dollar On the Passing of Nick Owens

“When President George W. Bush designated me as NCUA Chairman in 2001, my first job was to put together a leadership team at NCUA that would help me move forward an agenda of safe and sound regulatory empowerment for America’s credit unions. One of the key guys that I turned to at that time was a young professional public affairs specialist from Wiggins, Mississippi, who wanted an opportunity to show what he could do in Washington, DC. Having known him for several years back home in the Magnolia State as a person of integrity and hard work, I brought Nick Owens to the NCUA leadership team as my Director of Public Affairs.

Bringing Nick Owens to Washington was one of the best leadership decisions I ever made. He brought an ability to work with people and to grasp issues that was well beyond his years. Nick was instrumental in the success of my NCUA chairmanship, but he was more than that. Nick Owens became a face for NCUA and credit unions throughout Washington that still benefit the agency and industry today — long after he had left NCUA.

As he went on from NCUA to the SBA and then into his private public affairs practice, no one worked the corridors of power in Washington better than Nick Owens. And certainly no one enjoyed doing so more. He loved government, his country, his state, his faith and his principles. He never compromised any of those.

While there are always in Washington those who disagree with men who take a stand like Nick Owens, I know of no one who did not like and respect Nick. I am so proud that I was a part of bringing him to Washington and to helping him start a career that, unfortunately, ended way too soon. In his nearly twenty years in Washington, Nick Owens left a mark that will last for decades to come — both in policy and, most importantly, in the lives he touched and the friendships he generated with all of us who believe Washington can be a better place and good government can make lives better across this great nation.

I will miss but never forget Nick.”

Written by

Remembering our friend, Nick Owens

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