Edna Anderson-Owens, the longtime assistant to Motown founder Berry Gordy, has died. She was 76.
A Gordy confidant portrayed in the Broadway show "Motown: The Musical," Anderson-Owens died June 13 at a Los Angeles hospital after complications with her breathing, said Curtis Owens, her husband of 26 years.
Gordy moved Motown's headquarters to Los Angeles from Detroit in 1972, wanting to expand his pop-soul hit factory into Hollywood movie production. Shortly after the company relocated, Gordy hired Anderson-Owens — who got her start in the company's publicity and community relations department — as his personal assistant. It was a position she held for more than four decades.
Her husband described her as a deliberative woman, "very methodical, very investigative and very detailed," who challenged Gordy on social issues, especially advancing the status of black people.
"She kept him focused on where we came from," Owens said. "She wanted to make sure that black folks had a right to participate in the whole matrix of the American experience and wanted to make sure our experiences were being exposed in the proper fashion."
She was born Edna Vernelle Anderson on Aug. 5, 1938, in Bluefield, W.Va., and graduated with a business administration degree from Wilberforce University (now Central State University), a historically black college in Xenia, Ohio.
After joining Motown, Anderson-Owens accompanied Gordy on business trips around the world, interacted with entertainers and top music executives and became the co-chief executive of TGC Management, a Gordy-owned intellectual property company. She was also the director and corporate secretary of the Berry Gordy Family Foundation.
She and Gordy were so close that one of the offspring of his racehorse Argument was named Edna's Argument.
Anderson-Owens also served numerous terms on the board of the California Science Center in Los Angeles.
She met her husband in college and they were married in 1989. She is also survived by her stepson, Derek Owens; her 101-year-old mother, Amanda Anderson; and her sister, Janice Anderson.