On the afternoon of November 3, 2007, Morganton favorite son and 2017 Fannin County Sports Hall of Fame electee, Bill Stephens settled into his seat at historic Notre Dame Stadium in South Bend, Indiana. Bill was there to watch his son Jordan, a strapping 270 defensive lineman for the Navy Midshipmen do battle in a gridiron war with the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. At the beginning of the game, Bill probably had no inkling that he would see history made that day.
The Navy vs Notre Dame rivalry is the longest uninterrupted intersection rivalry in Division I college football. The teams began playing in 1927. Entering the 2007 game, Notre Dame had defeated Navy in 43 consecutive games, the longest win streak, or losing streak from the Navy perspective, in college football. On November 3, 2007 that streak game to a screeching halt as Navy defeated the Irish 46-44 in triple overtime, truly an historic event in the history of college football.
Despite his many personal and team accomplishments that have earned Bill Stephens a membership ticket to the Fannin County Sports Hall of fame, he is quick to cite his son’s role in the 2007 Navy victory over Notre Dame as one of his biggest thrills in athletics. He also lists watching his oldest son Josh run out onto the court as a member of the 2006-07 Georgia Bulldogs basketball team and the baseball exploits of his younger sons, Connor, William and Cole, as some of his biggest thrills.
Don’t get the idea that Bill Stephens was elected to the FCSHOF on the strength of the many athletic accomplishments of his sons. Bill experienced more than his share of thrills during his basketball and baseball career at East Fannin High School from 1970-74 and then as a starting point guard for the Gainesville Junior College hoopsters. It is just that his pride in the success of his family is more important to him than his personal achievements.
During his four years at East Fannin High School, Bill Stephens was a four-year starter in basketball and a three-year starter in baseball. In baseball, he played shortstop and, as a senior, was the team captain and was selected as his team’s Most Valuable Player.
In basketball, he was selected as the team Most Improved Player as a freshman, Best Defensive Player as a junior and as the Most Valuable Player as a senior. He was selected as team captain for his senior season. As a senior in 1973-74, Bill averaged more than 20 points per game leading the Wildcats to a 16-11 record and to the semi-finals of the Region 8B Tournament. In the West Fannin Christmas Tournament in 1973, he scored 40, 32 and 26 points on successive nights in games vs Union County, Gilmer County and West Fannin.
Bill was awarded a basketball scholarship to Gainesville Junior College and earned two letters there. He lists Coach James ‘Bubba’ Ball at Gainesville, along with childhood baseball coach Windell Davis and high school basketball coach Sam Williams as major influences in his athletic success.
After graduating from Gainesville, Bill went on to earn a BBA in business from the University of Georgia and then an MBA from Georgia State University. Armed with these credentials and a healthy portion of native intelligence, Bill became a successful businessman before accepting a position as the Director of Communications for Georgia Governor Zell Miller. He later entered the political arena on his own and served 8 years in the Georgia State Senate representing a large portion of North Georgia.
Bill Stephens is currently the Chief Executive Officer of the Stone Mountain Memorial Association, the authority that oversees all operations of Georgia’s Stone Mountain Park, the number one tourist attraction in the state. The park has more than 3 million visitors annually, revenues of approximately 60 million and more than 300 employees. Bill and his wife Shannon Walshe Stephens, a former news anchor with WSB TV in Atlanta, and their three youngest sons, make their home in Stone Mountain.
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