Valerie Biden Owens is President-elect Joe Biden’s younger sister. She has been a constant supportive figure throughout his political career. She even managed all of his campaigns until recently, but she did not run his 2020 presidential campaign.
In an interview with the Delaware News Journal in January 2020, Owens referred to herself as Biden’s “Jiminy Cricket” when she explained her enduring role as an adviser. “I think the best thing that I bring to my brother is that I will always be his sister. I will always have a seat at the table. I will always be the last man standing in the room, so to speak.”
Biden is the oldest of his siblings. He and Owens also have two younger brothers, Frank Biden and Jim Biden.
Here’s what you need to know about Valerie Biden Owens, Joe Biden’s sister:
1. Valerie Biden Owens Moved In & Helped to Raise Her Nephews, Beau & Hunter, After Her Brother’s First Wife Died In a Car Crash In 1972
Owens stepped up in a major way after Joe Biden suffered the loss of his wife, Neilia Hunter, and infant daughter Naomi Christina in 1972. Both were killed in a car crash that year, shortly after Biden won his first Senate race. Neila had taken the children to pick out a Christmas tree when their car was struck by a truck. Sons Beau and Hunter were both injured in the crash but recovered.
The former vice president explained in his autobiography, Promises to Keep, that his younger sister was instrumental in helping him and the rest of the family move forward after such a devastating loss. He wrote that Owens “was the cornerstone that allowed me to sustain and then rebuild my family. When Neila died, my sister was the person I trusted completely with my sons.”
Owens and her first husband, Bruce, moved in with Joe Biden and his sons in order to provide the care that Beau and Hunter needed. She quit her teaching job in order to be there full-time. The former VP wrote, “She knew and loved the boys like they were her own.” Owens lived with her brother and her nephews for four years. During that time, she got divorced, remarried, and had a daughter of her own.
2. Joe Biden Fixed His Sister Up With Her Current Husband, Jack Owens
Joe Biden explained in his memoir that his sister felt guilty when her first marriage to Bruce Saunders fell apart. The couple had gotten married after she graduated from the University of Delaware and he returned from a tour in Vietnam. Biden remarked in his book that Valerie Biden and her first husband largely lived “separate lives” even when they were living with Biden and his sons.
Joe Biden played a large role in setting up his sister with her second husband, Jack Owens. Owens and Biden had been close friends during law school at Syracuse.
Owens had actually already met Jack Owens years earlier. They had gone on a blind date in Syracuse due to urging from Biden and Neila Hunter. Hunter had told Owens at the time, “I promise you, Valerie, if I could pick any guy in the world for you, it would be Jack Owens.”
But the date did not go well; Owens thought Jack was arrogant and he thought she was stuck-up, according to Biden’s memoir. Years later, they bickered throughout Biden’s first senatorial campaign.
The former VP wrote that months after he had been elected to the Senate, he felt a bit nervous about inviting Owens over for dinner. “Neither of them would let go of the memories of their disastrous blind date at Syracuse or of their epic fights during the Senate campaign.”
But Biden said his sister and Jack Owens became friends over a period of several months and eventually fell in love. He said that his sister warmed to Jack after watching him “be such a good friend” to Joe following Neila’s death.
Valerie Biden and Jack Owens have been married for more than four decades and have three grown children together.
3. Owens Managed Her Brother’s Campaigns Beginning In High School When He Ran For Class President
Biden described his sister Valerie as his “best friend” in his autobiography. Owens explained to the New York Times in 2008 that she was her older brother’s “sidekick” and loved to follow him around when they were children. According to the Washington Post, she was instrumental in helping him work through having a stutter.
As teenagers, Owens had her first experience managing a political campaign. She organized Biden’s campaign when he decided to run for class president during high school. That trend continued into adulthood.
She managed all of his local campaigns in Delaware, his Senate campaigns and both of his previous runs for president. Owens did not have an official role during the 2008 and 2012 elections but remained a vital advisor to her brother. Biden’s press secretary at the time described Owens as Joe’s “political alter-ego and confidante.”
4. Owens Did Not Manage Her Brother’s 2020 Campaign
Owens did not have an official role with her brother’s 2020 presidential campaign, although she is advocating for him on the trail. Greg Schultz, Biden’s former senior adviser in the White House, had the title of campaign manager.
Owens now serves as the Vice-Chair of the Biden Institute at the University of Delaware, a role she has held since 2017. On her professional website, she explains that the Institute’s mission is to “influence, shape, and work to solve the most pressing domestic policy problems facing America.”
Owens also serves as an Advisory Board Member for the Beau Biden Foundation for the Protection of Children. Beau Biden, who passed away in 2015 from cancer, was active in working to raise awareness and prevent child abuse. The non-profit organization is described as “honoring Beau Biden’s life’s work to protect children.”
5. Owens Has Been an Influential Political Figure in Her Own Right
On her professional website, Owens describes herself as her brother’s “principle surrogate on the campaign trail.” She has also staunchly defended him against attacks from President Donald Trump. On the 2020 campaign trail, she has described her brother as the “antithesis of Donald Trump.”
But Owens has a political career of her own in addition to assisting the former vice president. Owens has previously served as a senior advisor at the United Nations. She’s been a leader within the Democratic National Committee, serving on the National Board of the Women’s Leadership Forum.
Owens has worked for more than two decades with Women’s Campaign International, which works to empower women in developing democratic nations. On the other side of the political sphere, Owens advised candidates on how to craft their messaging as the Executive Vice President of a media consulting firm called Joe Slade White & CO.