Chester O. Stephens, Jr.


Chester O. Stephens Jr. was born September 13, 1921, in Chattanooga, Tennessee. He graduated from Auburn University in 1947 with a degree in agricultural science, following World War II service as an officer in the U.S. Army’s European campaigns.

Stephens was west Alabama sales manager for Ralston Purina Co. From 1947 until 1960. He then founded STRAL Co. in Greensboro, a firm that hatched and sold catfish fingerlings to farmers and then purchased, processed, and sold catfish after they reached market size. From this beginning, Stephens developed into the dominant leader in Alabama’s catfish industry. Recently, he organized American Freshwater Farms in Scottsboro, Alabama.

Christmas trees, beef cattle, and timber are other products produced by Stephens Industries in Selma, which is headed by Stephens as president and CEO. In all of his agricultural operations, conservation of soil and water gets major attention from Stephens. His stewardship of the soil earned him the honor of outstanding conservationist from the Autauga County Soil and Water Conservation district board.

Stephens has provided leadership to many civic, industry, and religious organizations. He has served as director of the Alabama and national Christmas tree associations, chairman of Autauga County Rural Area Development, deacon of his Presbyterian church, and president of the Alabama Fisheries Association. He established an endowment fund for excellence in fish farming at Auburn University.

Stephens is married to the former Minnie Steele McNeel. They have three children, Martha Hughes, Gladys Elliott, and Chester O. Stephens III.