Profile: Jackson T. Stephens (with Mary Anne)

Chairman, Stephens Group Inc. <br>Little Rock, Arkansas

Photo: Getty Images

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


In the late 80’s, billionaire financier Jackson T. Stephens and his wife Mary Anne were described as “Mr. And Mrs. Republican in Arkansas.” And little has changed.

Stephens founded Stephens Group, one of the largest investment firms off Wall Street, with his brother, the late W.R. “Witt” Stephens. And both became power players in Arkansas politics — just on different sides of the partisan divide. Witt Stephens was a die-hard Democrat and influential supporter of Bill Clinton during his rise to prominence. Jackson Stephens chaired former President Bush’s 1988 campaign in Arkansas and helped organize his inaugural.

Stephens attended the Naval Academy at Annapolis, where he met and became friends with a midshipman from Georgia, Jimmy Carter. Still, that friendship didn’t extend to political support. Stephens was an outspoken backer of President Ronald Reagan. In a rare interview in the early 80’s, Jackson declared that Reagan was giving the country “exactly what we need. Some of us call it tough love.”

Lately, it’s been Stephens’ son, Steve Stephens, who has been making waves in Arkansas politics. Through much of 2001, the younger Stephens was rumored to be considering challenging Gov. Mike Huckabee in the 2002 Republican primary. He eventually dropped the idea, but not before angering some Arkansas Republicans, who openly wondered whether the Stephens family were drifting away from the party.

DOES IT FEEL LIKE POLITICS IS AT A BREAKING POINT?

Headshot of Editor in Chief of Mother Jones, Clara Jeffery

It sure feels that way to me, and here at Mother Jones, we’ve been thinking a lot about what journalism needs to do differently, and how we can have the biggest impact.

We kept coming back to one word: corruption. Democracy and the rule of law being undermined by those with wealth and power for their own gain. So we're launching an ambitious Mother Jones Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on systemic corruption, and asking the MoJo community to help crowdfund it.

We aim to hire, build a team, and give them the time and space needed to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We want to dig into the forces and decisions that have allowed massive conflicts of interest, influence peddling, and win-at-all-costs politics to flourish.

It's unlike anything we've done, and we have seed funding to get started, but we're looking to raise $500,000 from readers by July when we'll be making key budgeting decisions—and the more resources we have by then, the deeper we can dig. If our plan sounds good to you, please help kickstart it with a tax-deductible donation today.

Thanks for reading—whether or not you can pitch in today, or ever, I'm glad you're with us.

Signed by Clara Jeffery

Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest