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Elizabeth Stephens collection

Call Number: RH MS 1524


Mary Elizabeth (Durrett) Stephens was an accomplished organist and pianist. This collection contains materials documenting her musical achievements and some of her research material and personal papers, as well as some materials related to her husband, William Stephens, who had a long career with the Reuter Organ Company in Lawrence, Kansas.


  • Creation: 1942 - 2002


Conditions Governing Access

Audio visual materials are stored in the KU Annex off-site storage area.

All researchers interested in reviewing this material must consult Spencer Research Library Public Services staff (785-864-4334 or, 9-5 M-F CST) before a planned visit; staff will respond within three days, though materials may not be available in that timeframe. Access to audio visual materials may require digitization first. Be advised that drop-in requests for this material cannot be accommodated.

Conditions Governing Use

Spencer Library staff may determine use restrictions dependent on the physical condition of manuscript materials.

Biography of Elizabeth and William Stephens

Mary Elizabeth Durrett, who often went by Liz or Lizzie, was born August 20, 1927 in Memphis, Tennessee, the daughter of Walter E. and Minnie Mae Peyton Durett. She graduated from Central High School in Memphis, Tennessee and studied at the Juilliard Institute of Music in New York, under Virgil Fox. She received a bachelor's degree in music from the University of North Texas, where she studied under Silvio Scionti. She also earned a masters degree in music at the University of Kansas in 1971.

Stephens held multiple choir director, pianist, and organist positions at churches in and near Victoria, Texas and Lawrence, Kansas, as well as holding instructorship positions in piano and organ at Victoria College and teaching private lessons in her studio. She was also the choir director at the Vernon Texas Music Club. After moving to Lawrence, KS in 1968, Stephens held the position of organist at Trinity Episcopal Church for close to 40 years.

Stephens earned her service-playing certificate and was a member of the American Guild of Organists; a charter member of the Phi Tau chapter of Mu Phi Epsilon, a professional music fraternity; a member of Pi Kappa Lambda, an honorary music fraternity; and held memberships in the Association of Anglican Musicians, Lawrence Music Club, and the Peyton Society.

She married William James Stephens on November 19, 1946, and they raised 5 children: William James III, Guy W., Cecily, Shirley Stephens-Mock, and Amy (Stephens) Monroy. "Bill" J. Stephens was born June 28, 1924 in Jacksonville, Texas, the son of William James and Ruth Elizabeth (Stoker) Stephens. After graduating from Jacksonville High School and serving in the Navy as a gunner's mate second class in the Pacific during World War II, he completed a bachelors in music, concentrating in organ performance, from the University of North Texas in 1949. He later studied at the University of Colorado and served as an assistant instructor in organ there.

Stephens taught public school music classes in south Texas and was the organist-choirmaster at Trinity Lutheran Church in Victoria, Texas. In 1968, after the family moved to Lawrence, Stephens worked for the Reuter Organ Company, installing pipe organs in 49 states and retiring from the company after 40 years.

William James Stephens died December 16, 2008. Elizabeth Stephens died May 19, 2011, at Lawrence Memorial Hospital.

[Information obtained from Elizabeth Stephens' obituary on the Rumsey-Yost Funeral Home website, Lawrence, Kansas, accessed April 10, 2018; and from William J. Stephen's obituary on, accessed March 9, 2020.]


4 Linear Feet (6 boxes + 3 oversize boxes, 1 phonograph record)

Language of Materials


Scope and Contents

This collection primarily contains materials related to Mary Elizabeth (Durrett) Stephens' personal life, education, and career. It contains school-related materials, newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, correspondence, recital programs, photographs, and other materials related to her life in Tennessee, Texas, Colorado, and Kansas.

The collection also includes some materials related to Stephens' husband William "Bill" J. Stephens. These materials include correspondence, some items related to his education, news clippings and other materials related to his work with the Reuter Organ Company, and photographs.

Also in the collection are several newspaper accounts gathered by the Stephens regarding civil unrest, drug use, and the violence surrounding protests at the University of Kansas' campus in Lawrence in 1970. There is also a hand-made necklace from Leo Beuerman, a notable Lawrence, Kansas-based man with disabilities, purchased from him by Stephens and her daughter.


This collection has 4 series: Elizabeth Stephens papers; William Stephens papers; Photographs; and News articles related to protests and civil unrest in Lawrence, Kansas in the early 1970s. Each series is generally organized chronologically and is grouped by format (educational and youth materials grouped together, correspondence grouped together, etc.).

Physical Location

RH MS 1524

Physical Location

RH MS Q438

Physical Location

RH MS R473

Physical Location

KC AV 47

Physical Location

A/V items at Annex (Contact Spencer Library Public Services)

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gifts, Amy Monroy, 2015, 2016.

Related Materials

Records of the Lawrence Music Club, RH MS 298, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Processing Information

Some materials in this collection formerly located at RH MS 1448.

Guide to the Elizabeth Stephens Collection
Elizabeth Stephens collection
Finding aid prepared by lmw, 2018. Finding aid encoded by lmw, 2018. Finding aid revised by mwh, 2020.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Finding aid written in English.
Finding aid permalink
Preferred citation
Elizabeth Stephens collection, RH MS 1524, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas

Repository Details

Part of the University of Kansas. Kenneth Spencer Research Library Repository

1450 Poplar Lane
Lawrence KS 66045-7616 United States