Financier Witt Stephens, Arkansas Political ‘Kingmaker’, Dies at 84
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) _ W.R. ″Witt″ Stephens, who helped build a financial empire with a flagship firm that billed itself as the largest investment-brokerage house off Wall Street, died Monday. He was 84.
He died of natural causes at St. Vincent Infirmary Medical Center, said hospital spokeswoman Melissa Bowman. Stephens was admitted there Nov. 15 after experiencing weakness and dizziness.
Stephens and his brother, Jack, ran several major business enterprises. The flagship became Stephens Inc., the Little Rock investment house, which claimed to be the largest of its kind outside Wall Street.
Fortune magazine recently estimated the two brothers had $1.7 billion.
Stephens also was involved in oil and gas, nursing homes, cotton marketing, shopping centers, an insurance company, a major bank computer services firm, a natural gas utility company, a 126-room motel, an industrial equipment supply firm and farms and ranches encompassing thousands of acres.
″It’s a sin not to work, physically and mentally, and a very bad sin, which is one I haven’t committed very much,″ Stephens said in a recent interview.
Gov. Bill Clinton, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, said Stephens was an Arkansas legend.
″He was a great business leader who helped to build our state and he was a force in our politics for decades,″ Clinton said. ″He was also a good friend to me. I treasured his friendship and advice, and I will miss him very much.″
In Arkansas, Stephens was dubbed ″the kingmaker,″ and he once acknowledged that his financial backing for candidates made a difference.