By Davis Coen
Nobody here in town, or likely anywhere else on the planet, has an Ole Miss memorabilia collection more impressive than Oxford native Jim Stephens.
Located at his home, the vast collection contains about 2,500 pieces of memorabilia – everything Ole Miss. Stephens has two full rooms devoted to these items, which include over six score years of autographs, magazines, yearbooks (13 shy of a full collection), original photos and more. He calls these his “Rebel rooms,” and together the two spaces add up to just shy of 1,000 square feet.
He and his wife also built a 600-square-foot building next to their house, half of which will be an extension of the collection, although it’s still in the process of being finished. “It’s really my Room ‘2 ½,”’ he joked, since he had to split the space with his wife, whose things fill the other half of the building.
Stephens anticipates that sometime this spring the satellite collection next to his house will be ready to show. And this smaller area, along with the main two rooms, will make a total of 1,300 square feet of wall-to-wall Rebel memorabilia. “So, I have quite a collection,” Stephens said, of this manifestation of a lifelong passion for his and much of his family’s alma mater.
His grandfather, Hubert D. Stephens, Sr., played football for Ole Miss in 1894 and 1895, and 1893 was the first team they ever had – so family lineage literally goes back to the beginning. Hubert, Sr. also went on to serve for many years as a United States congressman and senator.
One of his prize possessions is the Ole Miss M-Club certificate that was awarded to his grandfather, and is signed by both Judge William Hemingway and T.J. Lilly, the Secretary at the time, for his part in the ‘94 season.
The M-Club was formed in the early 1900s, but players on the previous teams were given their awards retroactively. “It’s my prize possession,” said Stephens, who has a section exclusively devoted to the family patriarch, called “grandfather’s corner.”
Also, being a big Chucky Mullins fan, Stephens has a collection devoted to the late-great defensive back. Plus, to former player and legendary, longtime coach Johnny Vaught, and Charlie Conerly, who led the Rebels to their first SEC championship in 1947.
Stephens considers these four collections his most precious, although he also has a “Manning Family corner” and a Sugar Bowl section, which displays every program from the Sugar Bowls that Ole Miss has competed in going back to 1953.
Having served in the U.S. Army for 27 ½ years (retired as a Sgt. Maj.), and as a poll worker and election commissioner for a total of 16 years, Stephens now considers himself retired but still quite productive, and keeps an amazingly positive attitude, including towards the city he calls home.
Stephens also has three Christmas trees on display year-round, decorated with Ole Miss flair, which help embody his positive spirit. “Everyday in Oxford is just like a holiday,” he enjoys saying. “Regardless of the weather, regardless of what’s going on, it’s a good day.”
He also maintains that as much as he enjoys visitors coming to see his extraordinary collection, the “bottom line” is that he collected it all for himself and his family.
“I’ve enjoyed it. It’s been a great effort – it’s been a labor of love.” Stephens often tells people: “I don’t have a boat in the driveway…I don’t have a collection of guns…I don’t hunt or fish. This is what I do. I just collect Ole Miss memorabilia.’”