Jackson T. (Jack) Stephens
Jack Stephens was born on August 9, 1923 in Grant County, Arkansas, the youngest of six children. Coming from humble beginnings on a farm near Prattsville in the Great Depression, the hard times and his parents taught him the values of self-reliance, diligence, integrity and hard work. His father, A.J. Stephens once told his young son, “It’s no disgrace to be poor, it’s a disgrace to stay poor.” His father also advised, “Success is not a destiny to be reached, but the quality of the journey we make.”
The advice from his father stayed with him throughout his life. In his younger years Jack Stephens worked on the family farm behind a mule drawn plow and picking cotton. By age 15, he held summer jobs as a bellhop and shoeshine boy at the Barlow Hotel in
A bright student, Mr. Stephens attended public schools in Prattsville and graduated high school from
Poor eyesight prevented Mr. Stephens from active duty in the Navy so he took a job offered to him on his graduation day by his brother W.R. “Witt” Stephens. With a simple handshake in his room at the
Witt was outgoing, a natural salesman. Jack was quiet, unassuming and studious. A decade later, in 1956, Witt and Jack formalized their handshake and Jack became President and Chief Executive Officer the following year. (1957.) The two brothers acquired the Fort Smith Gas Company and renamed it the Arkansas Oklahoma Gas Company. The pair also acquired an oil and gas exploration firm and named it Stephens Production Company. Both investments proved to be the catalyst for expansion from a municipal bond business to a diversified financial group that became Stephens Inc.
Jack Stephens served as President and CEO of Stephens Inc. from 1957 until 1986 when Stephens Group, Inc. was formed and became the parent company of Stephens Inc. His son, Warren, became President and CEO of Stephens Inc. and Stephens Group, Inc. at that time. Jack Stephens became Chairman of Stephens Group, Inc. that year, a title he carried for the remainder of his life.
Over the decades, Mr. Stephens led the company to great heights. Under his leadership, Stephens Inc. invested or assisted in many enterprises including the former Union Life Insurance Company, the former Systematics, Donrey Media (now Stephens Media Group), Dillards, Alltel, Wal-Mart, Tyson Foods and many more. Jack Stephens’ leadership and business acumen was responsible for the creation of hundreds of businesses in
In recent years, Mr. Stephens was recognized for his philanthropy but it is something he did all his life. He once told a reporter, “There are only two pleasures associated with money, making it and giving it away.”
For over 20 years Jack Stephens has been the principal benefactor for The Delta Project, a program designed to assist and educate underprivileged children in
For 20 years the Trust Fund has provided scholarships for students and incentive awards for innovative teachers. His gift of $48 million built the Jackson T. Stephens Spine and Neurosciences Institute on the campus of the
The Stephens family has been a life long supporter of the
The Episcopal Collegiate School, the campus of which bears his name, occupies 31 acres near
The list of contributions to his community also includes a $5 million dollar endowment to
Mr. Stephens’ love of sports (football and golf in particular) led to a $10 million gift to the U.S. Naval Academy Foundation in
When asked by the PGA TOUR if he would support the launching of a new program to teach golf and its values to children by creating affordable and accessible golf facilities, Mr. Stephens surpassed their expectations with a $5 million donation to help start The First Tee. The program serves children who have not previously been exposed to the game of golf.
Mr. Stephens loved the game of golf and once told a reporter, “Golf is a great teacher in life. The same skills needed to master this game are the same skills needed to master life, a life full of unseen obstacles and excitement.”
In 1962, Mr. Stephens was invited to become a member of the Augusta National Golf Club. Mr. Stephens served as its fourth Chairman (1991-1998) with the responsibility of overseeing the golf club and the most prestigious tournament in golf, the Masters. Upon retiring as Chairman in 1998, Mr. Stephens was named Chairman Emeritus.
Mr. Stephens won numerous awards and recognitions during his lifetime. He was honored with the Horatio Alger Award in 1980 and he was the first recipient of the J. William Fulbright Award given for international trade development in 1989. Mr. Stephens served on the board of the Little Rock Boys Club, The Quapaw Council of The Boy Scouts of America. He served 10 years on the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees and was awarded an honorary Doctor of Law Degree and a
Jack Stephens was an original American success story with roots deep in the soil of his home state of