2005: Newsmakers - Ex-Augusta chairman gave millions to charity

Jackson T. “Jack” Stephens, a financier and philanthropist who served as chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club for seven years, died July 23 at age 81.

Stephens Inc. spokesman Frank Thomas said Stephens died after suffering from declining health. Thomas said Stephens, who had a mild stroke in 1998, had been hospitalized for a month before returning to his Little Rock, Ark., home July 21. He died two days later.

Stephens grew up picking cotton on an Arkansas farm during the Great Depression, then went on to graduate from the U.S Naval Academy in 1946. In 1962, he became one of the youngest members invited to Augusta National when he was 38. Twenty-nine years later, he became the fourth chairman, following Clifford Roberts (1931-76), William Lane (1977-78) and Hord Hardin (1979-1991). Stephens was succeeded by Hootie Johnson in 1998.

“Augusta National Golf Club and the Masters tournament have lost a wonderful individual and an outstanding past chairman and, personally, I have lost a dear friend,” Johnson said. “Under Jack’s leadership, the Masters continued to grow and his integrity helped maintain its success. On behalf of the club’s membership, I want to express our deepest sympathy to Jack’s family.”

Under Stephens’ watch, the Masters instituted pre-sold practice round tickets in 1995, created masters.org in 1996 and saw Tiger Woods become the youngest Masters champion while setting the event scoring record in 1997.

Stephens, along with his brother W.R. “Witt” Stephens, was one of Arkansas’ richest and most powerful individuals. Witt Stephens started Little Rock-based Stephens Inc. in 1933, and Jack, who joined the firm in 1946, built it to its peak, making it the largest brokerage house with headquarters off Wall Street. Yet Jack Stephens also gave millions to various charities, including a $48 million donation that built the Jackson T. Stephens Spine and Neurosciences Institute at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. Stephens also gave a $10 million gift to the U.S. Naval Academy Foundation in Annapolis, Md. The donation, the largest ever made to the Naval Academy, funded the renovations at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. The field at the stadium was renamed Jack Stephens Field in 2003.

Stephens once told a reporter, “There are only two pleasures associated with money – making it and giving it away.” He is survived by his wife, Harriet Stephens, two sons, six grandchildren, two great-grandchildren and two sisters.

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