A longtime employee of Biltmore Estate, Sylvester Owens played a crucial role in the development of the gardens at Biltmore, most notably the popular Azalea Garden.

Mr. Owens, who lived in the historically Black neighborhood of Shiloh, began work at Biltmore in 1920 as a chauffeur for estate superintendent and head gardener Chauncey Beadle. Correspondence from Mr. Beadle showed admiration for Mr. Owens, especially for his help in Mr. Beadle’s work to collect and document azalea species.

When Mr. Beadle passed away in 1950, estate manager Junius Adams appointed Mr. Owens as head gardener responsible for fulfilling Mr. Beadle’s vision for the gardens.

Mr. Owens was a true successor to Mr. Beadle, becoming one of the greatest authorities on azaleas while overseeing the development of Biltmore’s garden spaces.

In 1961, Mr. Owens was presented the President’s Award from the Southeastern Rhododendron Show, a point of pride for the rest of his life. He retired in 1964 after 44 years of service, completing the Azalea Garden to commemorate his friend’s horticultural work.