1980 Horatio Alger Award Winner
"Self-reliance, diligence, and industry are the important values."
Jackson Stephens was born on a farm near Prattsville, Arkansas, in 1923. During the Depression, it was helpful to have the food provided by the farm, but life was not easy. "The rules in my family were: Make the best grades in school, hoe the cleanest row of cotton, and take pride in everything you do," says Stephens. His parents also instilled in their six children the values of self-reliance, diligence, and industry.
Stephens picked cotton and helped neighbors harvest their crops. At age 15, he worked as a bellhop at the Barlow Hotel in Hope, Arkansas. "I had a $5 dime bank and my goal was to fill it up every day," he says. "To meet his goal, Stephens outran both the day porter and the night porter to get the customers' suitcases. When the night porter quit, Stephens bought his shoeshine stand for $2, which gave him a way to earn money in the lobby of the hotel at night. He used afternoons to deliver telegrams.
With financial assistance from his older brother, Stephens attended Columbia Military Academy, graduating in 1941. He spent the next two years at the University of Arkansas and was appointed to the U. S. Naval Academy in 1943. Poor eyesight prevented him from being commissioned, so he joined Stephens, Inc., a municipal bond house started by his brother. The brothers built a full-service private investment bank, and Jackson Stephens has headed the firm since 1957.
Stephens and his brother established the City Trust Education Fund to benefit Little Rock high school students and teachers, and the Police and Fire Trust Fund to benefit the families of public safety officers killed in the line of duty in Little Rock.
"Education is so important," Stephens says. "The Horatio Alger Association's National Scholars program now gives more scholarship money than any other non-profit association," he says. "That is something of which we can all be proud."* Deceased