Dr. Owen L. Knox (Courtesy Photo)

Education is liberation. Dr. Owen Lloyd Knox dedicated his life to advancing the quality of education in the Black community, from students to administrators. Dr. Knox pioneered and founded several associations and programs centered around the Black educational experience, with representation and equality at the forefront.

He was instrumental in changing the dynamics of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) and their approach to learning. During his career he would hold the positions of teacher, Assistant Principal, Program Director, Deputy Area Administrator, Area Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent of Personnel in LAUSD. In September of 2010, he was honored with the opening of the Dr. Owen Lloyd Knox Elementary School in Los Angeles. His life and his legacy are Black history.

Dr. Knox was born October 4, 1918, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He was the fifth child of Samuel Knox, a brick maker, and Hattie Knox, a homemaker. He graduated from McKinley High School in 1936 and received a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Chemistry from Leland College, a small Historically Black College and University (HBCU), in 1939. He later earned a Master of Science in Education from the University of Southern California (USC) and a Doctorate in Education from the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). After college, Knox taught for one year in Mansfield, Louisiana before moving to Los Angeles in 1940.

In L.A., he worked a variety of jobs like janitorial worker, dental assistant, apartment cleaner, and as a treat metal worker at Lockheed Aircraft. It was at Lockheed where he met Margaret Young, whom he would marry in 1949. After serving in the U. S. Army, Knox attended USC part-time to earn a California Teachers Credential. He began teaching in LAUSD’s 79th Street Elementary School in 1951 and later moved to Grant Elementary School. Upon obtaining his Master’s degree, and passing the principal exam, he was promoted to Assistant Principal at South Park Elementary.

Dr. Owen Lloyd Knox Elementary School (Courtesy Photo)

After placing third on the principal exam’s list, he was passed over by LAUSD for open positions being filled by white candidates who scored lower on the test. As a result, Knox threatened a discrimination lawsuit against LAUSD. The following year he was given the principal job at El Dorado Elementary in Sylmar, CA. Two years later, in 1965, after the Watts Riots, LAUSD was looking for Black administrators to fill positions in response to the racial injustices plaguing the Black community and Black schools. Dr. Knox was moved to 102nd Street Elementary School at that time.

Spurred by his experiences of discrimination in Louisiana and Los Angeles, as well as his frustrations with the racial policies and practices of LAUSD, Knox was active in the Civil Rights movement. He was a predominant member of the National Association of the Advancement of Color People (NAACP) and other organizations fighting for social justice. He also was an original member and one of the co-founders of the New Frontier Democratic Club.

Recognizing the inequities experienced by LAUSD’s Black students, the lack of Black administrators, and the difficulties of teachers and staff in being promoted within the district, a group of Black administrators led by Frederick Dumas, including Dr. Knox, formed a mission to develop a plan to improve education in Black schools, help train Black teachers to take on the roles in administration, and prepare current Black administrators for promotions within the district. This group later formed into the Council of Black Administrators (COBA), whose goals were to improve the education of Black learners and promote the selection of Black educators to higher positions of educational authority. COBA was accepted by the Los Angeles Board of Education as an official organization in 1968.

Dr. Knox received his Doctorate degree in 1970 and continued to promote within LAUSD, eventually becoming the first Black Area Superintendent in the San Fernando Valley. His family recalls receiving several death threats during his first year. Sixteen years after receiving his Doctorate, he retired in 1986 as LAUSD’s Assistant Superintendent of Personnel.

Dr. Knox was also a co-founder of the National Council on Educating Black Children (NCEBC) and a founder of the Western Regional Council on Educating Black Children (WRCBAA). He served on the professional staff of the Southwest Regional Laboratory for Educational Research, an Adjunct Professor at the Graduate School of Education at Pepperdine University, Assistant Professor at the UCLA School of Education, Senior Consultant for the Citizens Scholarship Foundation of America, Consultant for the Desegregation of the Dallas School District, one of the original Board Members of the Watts Learning Center, member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, and license real estate broker.

Family Photo: Dr. Owen L. Knox, Jacquelyn McNealy, Ian Knox, Brandon Knox, Paul Knox, Christopher Knox, Anthony Knox, Eileen Knox

He remained active in all these organizations for many years after retirement. Dedicating himself to eliminating racial inequities of American society through the education of self and the education of others. Knox was a fierce advocate of educating Black and minority children.

Among his great joys was spending time with his family. He considered himself lucky to have found a wife who could tolerate his busy schedules, frequent meetings, nationwide activity and still give him the love and commitment he needed while raising two sons. Dr. Knox and Margaret were married 71 years.

Oldest son Paul Knox was greatly inspired by his father. Paul adopted the convention to dedicate time and resources to the advancement of Black students through sports and education at Dorsey High school from 1982-2014. He spent 32 years at the high school as a U.S. History, World History, and U.S. Government teacher, and led Dorsey to four L.A. City Football Championships as the football program’s head coach in 1985, 1991, 1995, and 2001.

Son Anthony Knox was encouraged by his father to become an entrepreneur. Anthony owns and operates Knox Service Group (KSG), a furniture procurement, delivery, and installation business that offers comprehensive moving coordination services. When asked about his father’s influence, he shared, “owning my own business has always been the goal. He [Dr. Knox] was always very supportive of me and encouraged me to do something uniquely mine.”

Dr. Knox transitioned on December 20, 2022. He was preceded in death by his wife, Margaret, and leaves an everlasting legacy to his sons Paul & Anthony, daughter-in-law Eileen, grandsons Brandon, Christopher, Ian and Gus, niece Beverly, other nieces and nephews, friends, admirers, and co-workers. Dr. Knox’s impact at LAUSD will continue to benefit Black students and Black administrators who understand the need for representation and improvement in the educational system.

A tribute honoring the life of Dr. Knox will be held on Saturday, March 4, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., at the Dr. Owen Lloyd Knox Elementary School, located at 8919 South Main St., in Los Angeles.