Garry Owens was born in Seattle’s Chinatown/ International District and lived in a number of Seattle neighborhoods before graduating from Franklin High School. As a senior in high school, Owens was impressed by and participated in the Seattle chapter of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). After high school, he was drafted into the Army and his experiences in the South during his military tenure profoundly affected the way he saw discrimination in Seattle.
Out of the service in 1967, he returned to Seattle, began college at the University of Washington, and joined the Black Panther Party in 1968. A member of the Party from 1968 until 1972, he was particularly inspired by the kinds programs that the Party organized to help impoverished people, was a member of the Black Student Union on the UW campus, and spoke publicly about the mission of the Black Panther Party.
Garry Owens discussed his experiences in the Black Panther Party in a videotaped interview conducted by Janet Jones on November 26, 2005.