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Simon, Paul (1928-2003) | Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum

Name: Simon, Paul (1928-2003)


Historical Note: Paul Simon was born on November 29, 1928 in Eugene, Oregon. His parents, Dr. Martin Paul andRuth (Troemel) S. Simon had served as medical missionaries in China before his birth. Becausehis father was a minister of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, the family moved frequently asDr. Simon served various churches throughout the Pacific Northwest and the Midwest. While thefamily was in Oregon, Paul and his brother Arthur (who later became a New York City ministerand editor of the Inner City) picked cherries on a farm owned by Oregon Senator Wayne Morse.Later the Simons moved to southern Illinois.In 1937, Dr. Simon spearheaded the publication of Christian Parent magazine (1937-1961) and itsoffspring My Chum (1950-1961). His son was also developing an interest in journalism. Following hisgraduation from high school at the age of 16, Paul Simon enrolled as a journalism major at theUniversity of Oregon (1945-1946). While a student at the university, Simon worked in the sportsdepartment of the Eugene Register-Guard. In 1946, Simon transferred to Dana College, Blair,Nebraska. Simon never completed his degree requirements although he later was awarded numeroushonorary degrees. Instead in 1948, at the age of nineteen, Simon borrowed $3,600 underwritten by thelocal Lions Club and purchased a defunct downstate weekly, the Troy Call. Simon changed the paper’sname to the Tribune. He became the youngest editor-publisher in the country, but it was not Simon’s agethat gained the young editor national notice. Troy, Illinois was a haven for organized crime with itsaccompanying gambling and prostitution interests, so Simon embarked on an editorial crusade to rid thecommunity of this influence. His efforts attracted the attention of Governor Adlai E. Stevenson, whodispatched state troopers to shut down several establishments cited by Simon as being major offenders.This action made Simon a minor national celebrity and led to his being summoned to testify beforeSenator Estes Kefauver’s crime investigating committee in a televised hearing during 1951.Simon prospered as a newspaper man and eventually acquired a chain of fourteen downstatenewspapers. He also enlisted for two years in the Army and served as a special agent for counterintelligence (1951-1953) corps along the Iron Curtain in central Europe. While serving in themilitary Simon decided to seek public office, so he ran for the 47th district seat in the IllinoisGeneral Assembly. During this campaign, Simon estimated that he had shaken hands with 30,000people, so when he won 29,993 votes in the November 1954 general election, he remarked thatonly seven people he had shaken hands with had not voted for him. Simon was elected to theGeneral Assembly for an additional four terms and served from 1955 until 1963 in the StateHouse. During this time period he characterized his voting record as being “liberal about peoplebut conservative about money”. He advocated full disclosure of elected officials’ personalfinances and annually released statements on his own financial worth, which due to his success asa newspaperman were no longer that of an impoverished editor.When Harper’s published Simon’s article, “The Illinois Legislature: A Study in Corruption,” hiscolleagues in the General Assembly were surprised at his criticism of the body. NeverthelessSimon served on numerous House committees: Education (1957-1958), Executive (1961-1962),Industry and Labor Relations (1955-1956, 1959-1960), Personnel and Pensions (1957-1958, 1961-1962) and Public Aid, Health, Welfare and Safety (1955-1962). In 1962, Simon won the statesenate seat for the 47th district and served in that post until 1966. When his district was changed in1966, he won re-election as the state senator for the 53rd district. During 1966, Simon also sold hisnewspaper chain.While in the state senate Simon served on the following committees: Agriculture (1967-1968), Committee on Committees (1967-1968), Conservation (1965-1968). Education (1965-1966), Public Welfare (1963-1964), and Revenue (1963-1964). He also served on the Legislative Council (1963-1968), the Illinois Budgetary Commission (1967-1968) and was vice co-chairman of the Local Government Commission (1967-1968). He sponsored legislation that required governmental agencies at all levels to open their meetings to the public and the news media. In 1968, Simon was selected to run for lieutenant governor on the state Democratic slate headed by Governor Samuel Shapiro.Shapiro was defeated by Richard B. Ogilvie but Simon won the lieutenant governorship and in 1969 became the first Illinois lieutenant governor to serve with a governor not from his own political party. [The Illinois Constitution of 1970 provides for election of the governor and lieutenant governor as a team thus eliminating the possibility of this situation occurring again.] While lieutenant governor, Simon served as an “ombudsman” aiding citizens with their individual dealings with the state government. Besides his official duty of presiding over the state senate, which due to the political make-up of that body frequently gave Simon the opportunity to be a tie-breaker, the Lieutenant Governor also served on the Senate Chambers Maintenance Commission (1969-1970) and the Space Needs Commission (1971-1972).Following an unsuccessful bid for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination in 1972, Simon left elective office briefly in 1973. He was appointed Professor of Public Affairs at Sangamon State University in Springfield, Illinois [now University of Illinois Springfield]. Simon was also chosen as a John F. Kennedy Institute of Politics Fellow and lectured at Harvard in 1973. Also in 1973, Simon published his sixth book, The Politics of World Hunger, which he had co-authored with his brother Arthur Simon. Previous works written by Simon included biographical profiles of Elijah Lovejoy (Lovejoy: Martyr To Freedom, 1964) and Abraham Lincoln (Lincoln’s Preparation for Greatness, 1966). With his wife Jeanne Hurley Simon, the state senator had authored A Hungry World (1966) and Protestant-Catholic Marriages Can Succeed (1967). Besides the book length You Want to Change the World? So Change It (1971), Simon also wrote articles that were published in Harpers and Saturday Review as well as shorter historical sketches.During the 1974 election, Simon returned to the political scene. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives as the member from Illinois’ 24th District. Simon was re-elected to this seat in 1976, 1978 and 1980. In Washington, Simon served on the House Budget Committee (1977-1983), the Education and Labor Committee (1975-1985), the Science and Technology Committee (1983-1985) and the Post Office and Civil Service Committee (1975-1977). While serving in the House Simon was chief sponsor of legislation creating The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.Simon was elected to the U.S. Senate in the 1984 election defeating Republican incumbent Charles Percy. While serving two terms in the U.S. Senate, Simon served on the Judiciary Committee (1985-1997), the Labor and Human Resources Committee (1985-1997), the Rule Committee (1985-1987), the Budget Committee (1987-1997), the Foreign Relations Committee (1987-1995) and the Indian Affairs Committee (1991-1997). Throughout his congressional career he supported efforts for education reform and a balanced budget.Simon retired from the U.S. Senate in 1997 and founded the Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He taught political science courses at SIU and served as a speaker at various events until his death in December 2003. He also continued to write books throughout his career. Our Culture of Pandering was published in 2003 and Fifty Two Simple Ways to Make a Difference was published posthumously in 2004.While serving in the Illinois General Assembly, Simon met Jeanne Hurley, a state representative from Wilmette. When the couple married on 21 April 1960, they became the only husband-wife legislators in Illinois history. However, when the Simons moved to Troy, Jeanne chose to retire from elective office to rear the couple’s two children, Sheila and Martin. Over the years she supported her husband’s political career through the Democratic Wives club and other groups that assisted Democrats with fundraising activities and promoting the party. The Simons spent most of their married lives in and around Washington, D. C. and also maintained a home in the 24th District. When Simon retired from political office in 1997 the couple returned to their home in Makanda. Jeanne Hurley Simon died in 2000. In May 2001 Simon married Patricia Derge, the widow of a former SIUC president David Derge.In addition to his political career, Simon was actively involved in Lutheran charities such as the executive board of the Lutheran Human Relations Association, and the Southern Illinois Walther League, a Lutheran youth organization. Simon also served as secretary-treasurer of the Illinois Democratic Editorial Association and was on the board of directors of both Dana and McKendree Colleges. He also belonged to and served on several boards of various veterans and civic organizations. He was a passionate advocate for environmental issues, poverty, and other issues impacting human beings, both nationally, and globally.





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