The award was created in 2006 "to honor individuals who, like Millard, serve public radio in St. Louis with unwavering passion and long-term dedication."
Owsley sent along a copy of his remarks from Thursday night's ceremony, and here's what he had to say:
"Jazz music is a particularly American art form and it embodies many of the ideals such as fairness and democratic principles that we as Americans claim to aspire to. Many of these principles are embodied in how I have presented my shows since 1983. I always want the music to be uncompromising. I always try to teach the whole of jazz history in a quiet manner without hype so that the audience can learn the difference between an imitation and the real thing. Jazz Unlimited is about the music and not about me, so I avoid calling attention to myself through the use of catch phrases, slogans or copying anyone else’s on-air style. To paraphrase one of my heroes, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: in the jazz musicians’ world, musicians are judged by how well they play and not by the color of their skin. Unfortunately, this is not true of audiences, critics, media people or record company executives. So, I never identify a musician as white or black or brown on Jazz Unlimited.
National Public Radio is practically the only place left in this country where this national treasure can be heard. I want to again thank St. Louis Public Radio for giving me the privilege to present this music for over 27 years with no artistic interference, ever. I would like to sum up what I’m feeling at this moment with a quote from another of my heroes, Thelonious Monk, who said, “Jazz is Freedom. You think about that.” Thank you again for this honor."