E. W. Stephens
Journalist, Publisher, Philanthropist, Civic Leader
Year Inducted: 2017
Born in Boone County in 1849 and a life-long resident until his death in 1931, Stephens left his mark on his town, his state, the newspaper industry and the national publishing scene in a way that few before him and few since have ever done.
As a twenty-one-year-old, he bought a half-interest in a one-year-old paper called the Boone County Journal and re-named it the Columbia Herald. His editor in charge was the future founder of the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri, Walter Williams. Over the course of several years he built up a business that included publishing pamphlets, school publications, court records and law books for more than a dozen states. In 1893, Stephens built the “Herald Building” at the corner of Hitt St. and Broadway for his publishing operations and it still stands today.
Stephens was the President or Chairman more than 35 different organizations during his life, including the National Editorial Association, the Missouri Press Association, the Columbia Commercial Club (now named the Chamber of Commerce), the State Historical Society, the Committee which erected the Daniel Boone Tavern and Hotel, the University of Missouri Alumni Association, and both the Stephens College Board of Curators (a college named in honor of his father) and the University of Missouri Board of Curators. He served many of those organizations while also teaching a Sunday School class of 200 adults for 29 consecutive years, being absent only for sickness and overseas travel.
In 1921, the Centennial History of Missouri was published and said this of Stephens… “he has come to be known as Columbia’s foremost citizen and well does he deserve the title – It may be said of Mr. Stephens that he has been more of an institution than a man in al matters pertaining to the welfare of that part of Missouri to which he was born”.