Jim Ownby, who influenced Tri-City law enforcement for decades, died Monday at the age of 69.
For about two decades starting in 1974, Ownby was the sole faculty member for the law enforcement program at Columbia Basin College, teaching and mentoring hundreds of students who would become law enforcement professionals, many in the Mid-Columbia.
"I don't think he realized how much influence he had on a lot of people," said Kennewick Police Chief Ken Hohenberg, who was in Ownby's first class of students at CBC.
Dozens of his students went on to serve in law enforcement executive positions, Hohenberg said.
Ownby emphasized integrity, transparency and being open and honest, Hohenberg said.
Ownby also talked about the value of good people skills and being able to talk someone into the back of a patrol car, rather than fighting them, Hohenberg said. It's a skill Ownby had used as a Washington State Patrol trooper, often working alone, before turning his career to teaching.
Mark Panther, the former West Richland police chief, also remembered Ownby discussing the importance of developing a good relationship with the community when Panther also was in Ownby's first CBC class in 1974.
"He was a wonderful guy and a great role model," Panther said. Panther knew him before Ownby began teaching when Panther was a high school student and Richland police cadet and Ownby was a trooper, whom the cadets admired.
As a teacher, Ownby kept classes interesting by drawing on his experience in law enforcement to tell stories as teaching points, Panther said.
"He had a good sense of humor and was easy-going and honest," Hohenberg said. "He treated everyone with respect. I admired that about him."
CBC President Rich Cummins was assigned an office near Ownby when Cummins joined the college as an English teacher 21 years ago and remembered Ownby as something of a mentor. Cummins would stop by his office for advice or just to talk and enjoy Ownby's sense of humor and learn about law enforcement.
"He was a good guy. Sixty-nine is too young," Cummins said.
Ownby started his career serving with the military police in Germany, said his friend, Pete Overdahl, a retired Washington State Patrol trooper.
Ownby joined the Walla Walla city police, where Overdahl met him, and then took a job with the state patrol in the Twisp area. After a leave of absence to earn a master's degree in law enforcement, Ownby served as a trooper in the Tri-Cities and then took the job as a CBC instructor.
"He was no different as a troop than he was as a person," Overdahl said. "He was a dynamic person. He had a great wit about him."
Ownby maintained his up-beat personality throughout a difficult battle with cancer that ended with his death at Kennewick General Hospital, said those who knew him.
He is survived by his wife, Linda. Columbia Memorial Funeral Chapel in Pasco is in charge of arrangements.