Cecile Hinson Higdon Stephens peacefully entered her eternal heavenly home at the age of 94 on January 8, 2020. She was born to Cecil and Mildred Hinson in Linden, Alabama, on July 12, 1925. A former longtime resident of Jackson County, she spent her last years in Poinciana, Florida, with her son, Dean Higdon, who lovingly cared for her in their home during a lengthy illness. As a dear friend expressed, “Cecile was a gorgeous, brilliant lady of enormous talent and charm, like no other. May heaven’s gates open wide with a beautiful homecoming welcome for their new angel.”
Cecile will forever be remembered for her majestic and colorful artistic masterpieces. She was well known for her abstract figurative style of painting and achieved a long-standing reputation as an accomplished portrait painter, with over four hundred portrait commissions, including judges at the state and federal levels. Her works have been displayed throughout the south, including the Governor’s Mansion in Jackson, Auburn University, University of Mississippi, University of Southern Mississippi, as well as galleries in New York and Paris, France. She was honored as Mississippi's outstanding artist by the National Museum of Women in the Arts.
Cecile is preceded in death by her parents, Cecil Rudolph Hinson and Mildred Thomas Hinson; her loving husband, John Pearson Stephens, and a stepson, Daniel Stephens.
She is survived by her three beloved sons: William Travis Higdon, Jr., Kent Thomas (Ruby) Higdon, and Dean Gregory Higdon. She was also preceded in death by their father, Williams Travis Higdon, Sr., professional baseball player for the Chicago White Sox and the Philadelphia Phillies.
Cecile was lovingly known as “Grandmother” to her grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and all of their friends. She is survived by her grandchildren: Kelly (Joseph) Foster , Billy (Emily)Higdon , Brent (Emily) Higdon, Dr. Kye (Elizabeth) Higdon , Elias Higdon, Hunter (Kati) Higdon , Chris Higdon, and Anastasia Higdon.
Cecile is also survived by her stepchildren: Laura Cooper (Edward), Alva Peden, John (Allison) Stephens, Jr. and grandchildren Christine Williams, Bill (Mary Ellen) Peden , Allie (Will) Levanway , Robert (Dawn) Snelling , Andrew (Allison) Snelling , Daniel (Tiffany) Stephens, Jr., and Courtney Stephens. She is also survived by 30 great-grandchildren and her dear caretaker and friend, Ferosa Ali.
Cecile attended the University of Alabama as a young freshman to pursue her love of art. She attributed her passion for art to her mother and grandmother. Cecile earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Auburn University and Master’s Degrees from the University of Mississippi and the University of South Alabama. She completed course work and a dissertation toward her doctorate at Nova University. Over a period of 23 years, Mrs. Stephens taught at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, the University of Southern Mississippi, and William Carey College.
In 1975, she received a special recitation from Resources in Education for her document, “The Development of a Course in Teaching Gesture Drawings.” She was also honored as an outstanding alumna at Auburn University, marking the centennial of the school’s admission of women.
Cecile was a lifetime member of the Anola Club, Magnolia Garden Guild, and Pascagoula Yacht Club. She was also a member of Phi Mu Sorority and was Sigma Chi Sweetheart at Auburn University.
Cecile was a devoted member of St. John’s Episcopal Church, and she and her husband were honored to use their beautiful historic home “St. Mary’s by the River” for “Mass on the Grass” for many years. Cecile and John considered their home a blessing and loved to share it with the community for special events, weddings, and church activities. Cecile’s love of fine art was her passion, and she shared her talents with many young people, including her grandchildren.
Funeral arrangements for Cecile Higdon Stephens include a Celebration of Life service at St. John’s Episcopal Church on Monday, January 13, at 1:30 p.m. Visitation with the family will begin at 12:30 p.m. in the Church Parish Hall. Christian burial will be privately held at the Biloxi National Cemetery on Tuesday, January 14, beside her precious husband, John. The family wishes to express their gratitude for your prayers and love during the lengthy illness of their loved one. May the Lord bless you and give you peace.
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