Jackson T. 'Jack' Stephens, 1923-2005

by Arkansas Business staff  on Monday, Aug. 1, 2005 12:00 am  

From business to philanthropy, politics to sports, in Arkansas and beyond, Jackson T. "Jack" Stephens touched the lives of many.

More than 1,000 people celebrated the life of the Arkansas business and philanthropy icon at his funeral last Thursday at Little Rock's Episcopal Collegiate School, where the campus bears his name.

Stephens died at his Little Rock home on July 23. He was 81.

Lou Holtz, former head coach of the University of Arkansas football team and close friend of Stephens, spoke at the memorial and told mourners that everyone needed to do more for other people to fill the void left by the irreplaceable Stephens.

The service also included the hymns "O God, Our Help in Ages Past" and "The Navy Hymn," a homily from the Very Rev. Henry Hudson of Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, Scripture readings, and prayer.

Earlier that day Stephens was buried at Prattsville, where he was born.

Stephens was chairman of Stephens Group Inc., a diversified financial holding company that includes Stephens Inc., founded in 1933 in Little Rock by Jack's brother, W.R. "Witt" Stephens, who died in 1991, and Stephens Media Group, formerly Donrey Media Group, which Stephens purchased in 1993.

In 1968, Jack Stephens and Walter Smiley founded an information technology company called Systematics, which was purchased in 1990 by Alltel Corp. of Little Rock in a $528 million stock swap.

Systematics later became Alltel Information Services, which Alltel sold to Fidelity National Financial Inc. in Jacksonville, Fla., for $1 billion in 2003.

Jack Stephens also saved Worthen Banking Corp. with a $30 million recapitalization in 1985, an investment later worth at least $350 million.

In 1993, under Jack's leadership, Stephens Inc. entered the publishing business with the purchase of Donrey Media Group, a company founded by the late Donald W. Reynolds in 1940 that owned a handful of newspapers around the country.

Despite being among the wealthiest men in the country, Jack Stephens continued to give millions of dollars to nonprofits, education and health care, including $48 million to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock to build the Spine & Neurosciences Institute; $5 million to the national First Tee organization, which offers youths who otherwise might not have an opportunity to play golf access to the sport; $10 million to the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md., to fund renovations to its Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium; $2.5 million to the St. Vincent Heart Center at St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center in Little Rock; $20.4 million to the University of Arkansas at Little Rock for a new basketball arena; art, including works by Monet, Picasso and Degas valued at $22 million, to the Arkansas Arts Center in Little Rock; and countless other gifts.

 

 

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