Paul Simon (politician)

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Paul Simon
Paul Simon (US Senator from Illinois).jpg
United States Senator
from Illinois
In office
January 3, 1985 – January 3, 1997
Preceded byCharles H. Percy
Succeeded byDick Durbin
Member of the
U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois
In office
January 3, 1975 – January 3, 1985
Preceded byKenneth J. Gray
Succeeded byKenneth J. Gray
Constituency24th District (1975–1983)
22nd District (1983–1985)
39th Lieutenant Governor of Illinois
In office
January 13, 1969 – January 8, 1973
GovernorRichard B. Ogilvie
Preceded bySamuel H. Shapiro
Succeeded byNeil Hartigan
Personal details
Paul Martin Simon

(1928-11-29)November 29, 1928
Eugene, Oregon, U.S.
DiedDecember 9, 2003(2003-12-09) (aged 75)
Springfield, Illinois, U.S.
Resting placeRowan Cemetery
Makanda, Illinois, U.S.
Political partyDemocratic
(m. 1960; died 2000)

Patricia Derge
(m. 2001)
Children2, including Sheila
EducationUniversity of Oregon
Dana College
Military service
Allegiance United States
Branch/service United States Army
Years of service1951–1953
RankPrivate First Class
UnitCounterintelligence Corps

Paul Martin Simon (November 29, 1928 – December 9, 2003) was an American author and politician from Illinois. He served in the United States House of Representatives from 1975 to 1985 and in the United States Senate from 1985 to 1997. A member of the Democratic Party, he unsuccessfully ran for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination.

After his political career, he founded the Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale in Carbondale, Illinois, which was later named for him. There he taught classes on politics, history and journalism.

Simon was famous for his distinctive bowtie and horn-rimmed glasses.

Early life and career[edit]

Simon was born in Eugene, Oregon. He was the son of Martin Simon, a Lutheran minister and missionary to China,[1] and Ruth (née Tolzmann), a Lutheran missionary as well. His family was of German descent.[2]

Simon attended Concordia University, a Lutheran school in Portland.[3] He later attended the University of Oregon and Dana College in Blair, Nebraska, but never graduated.

After meeting with local Lions Club members, he borrowed $3,600 to take over the defunct Troy Call newspaper in 1948, becoming the nation's youngest editor-publisher, of the renamed Troy Tribune in Troy, Illinois, and eventually built a chain of 14 weekly newspapers. His activism against gambling, prostitution, and government corruption while at the Troy Tribune influenced the newly elected governor, Adlai Stevenson, to take a stand on these issues, creating national exposure for Simon that later resulted in his testifying before the Kefauver Commission.[4]

In May 1951, Simon left his newspaper and enlisted in the United States Army.[5] Simon served in West Germany during the Korean War.[6] Assigned to the Counterintelligence Corps,[7] he attained the rank of private first class[6] and was discharged in June 1953.[8]

State political career[edit]

Upon his discharge, Simon was elected to and began his political career in the Illinois House of Representatives. As a state representative, Simon was an advocate for civil rights, and once hosted an event attended by former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. After a primary debate with two other candidates, a newspaper account of a debate stated "the man with the bowtie did well," and he adopted his trademark bowtie and horned glasses.

In 1963, Simon was elected to the Illinois State Senate, serving until 1969 when he became the Lieutenant Governor of Illinois. As a Democrat, he served with Republican Governor, Richard B. Ogilvie. Their bipartisan teamwork produced the state's first income tax and paved the way for the state's 1969 constitutional convention, which created the fourth and current Illinois Constitution. The Ogilvie-Simon administration was the only one in Illinois history in which the elected governor and lieutenant governor were from different political parties: The Illinois constitution now pairs the offices as running mates on a ticket.

In 1972, Simon ran for the Democratic nomination for governor. Despite his longtime reputation as a political reformer, he was supported by the Cook County Democratic machine, led by Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley.[9] Nevertheless, Simon lost to Dan Walker, who went on to win the general election.

Out of office[edit]

In the years between his gubernatorial defeat and political comeback, Simon taught at Sangamon State University and the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.[10]

Rise to national prominence[edit]

US House of Representatives[edit]

Representative Simon interviewed by college friend Richard Jensen.

Simon resumed his political career in 1974 when he was elected to Congress from Illinois's 24th congressional district, where he was re-elected four times. He was later redistricted to Illinois's 22nd congressional district

In 1978, Simon was the first recipient of the Foreign Language Advocacy Award, presented by the Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages in recognition of his service on the President's Commission on Foreign Language and International Studies and his support for language study.[11]

According to the New York Times, Simon was never particularly popular with his House colleagues.[9]

US Senate[edit]

In 1984, he ran for, and was elected to the US Senate, defeating three-term incumbent Charles H. Percy in an upset election, winning just 50% of the vote.

He won re-election to the U.S. Senate in 1990 by defeating U.S. Representative Lynn Morley Martin with 65%, compared to Martin's 35%. While serving in the Senate, he co-authored an unsuccessful Balanced Budget Amendment with Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah.[12]

Simon gained national prominence after criticizing President George H. W. Bush during the 1992 presidential campaign, after Bush claimed a central role in causing the collapse of the Eastern bloc of the Soviet Union. During a speech at Chicago's Taste of Polonia, Bush had aggressively promoted the success of his own presidency and his importance as Vice President in the Reagan administration's role in Eastern Europe. This was an attempt by Bush to carry Chicago's Polish community in order to win Illinois during the election. Bush's claims were roundly denounced by Simon, and Bush eventually lost the state in the general election, possibly due to Simon's remarks.[13] Simon did not seek reelection in 1996.

Presidential campaign[edit]

1988 campaign logo
External video
video icon Booknotes interview with Jeanne Simon on Codename: Scarlett – Life on the Campaign Trail by the Wife of a Presidential Candidate, July 23, 1989, C-SPAN

Simon sought the Democratic nomination for President in 1988. Mostly unknown outside of Illinois and in low single digits in national polls after his March 1987 announcement, Simon made a name for himself as the oldest, some thought most old-fashioned, candidate, with horn rimmed glasses and bow tie, and one who proudly associated himself with the New Deal liberalism associated with Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman.

Simon surged ahead in Iowa in October, and was, by December, the clear front-runner in that state. However, in February 1988, Simon narrowly lost the Iowa caucus to Representative Dick Gephardt of Missouri, and finished third in the New Hampshire primary the following week, with weak showings in Minnesota and South Dakota a week later. Out of money and momentum, Simon largely skipped the key Southern "Super Tuesday" primaries on March 8, concentrating on his home state a week later, where key local Democrats were running as Simon delegates on the delegate selection ballot, and wanted to attend the Democratic National Convention regardless of Simon's slim chance of winning the nomination. Simon won the Illinois primary, and decided to make a final effort in the Wisconsin Primary in early April, but dropped out after he finished behind Governor of Massachusetts Michael Dukakis, Reverend Jesse Jackson, and Tennessee Senator Albert Gore. Simon endorsed Dukakis, who won the Democratic nomination in July, with Jackson the last active challenger.

To boost his campaign, Simon made an appearance on Saturday Night Live (SNL), co-hosting with musician Paul Simon (to whom he was not related).[14]

Political positions[edit]

Simon in 1992 with comedian Al Franken at the Mayflower Hotel. Franken impersonated Simon in Saturday Night Live sketches during the 1988 presidential campaign, and won a Senate seat himself in 2008.[15]

Social issues[edit]

Simon was fiercely against obscenity and violence in the media during the 1990s, and his efforts against media violence helped lead to the adoption of the V-chip.[16]

During the 1990s, Simon opposed both the Republicans' Contract with America, and President Bill Clinton's welfare reforms. He was one of 21 Senators to vote against the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act.[17] In 1996, Simon joined thirteen other senators (including his fellow U.S. Senator from Illinois, Carol Moseley Braun) in voting against the Defense of Marriage Act, which prohibited federal recognition of same-sex marriage.[18]

Fiscal issues[edit]

Simon was considered a fiscal conservative, who described himself as "a pay-as-you-go Democrat." As a senator, Simon helped overhaul the college student loan program to allow students and their families to borrow directly from the federal government, thus saving money by not using private banks to disburse the loans.[19]

Foreign affairs[edit]

Simon promoted a military response to Somalia during the presidency of George H.W. Bush.[20] Simon was an outspoken critic of President Bill Clinton's response to the 1994 Rwandan genocide. Simon believed that America should have acted faster, and Clinton later said his belated response was the biggest mistake of his presidency.[21] He is, together with Jim Jeffords, supported by Canadian Lieutenant-General Roméo Dallaire, Force Commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda from 1993 to 1994, for actively lobbying the Clinton administration into mounting a humanitarian mission to Rwanda during the genocide. According to Dallaire's book Shake Hands with the Devil, he "owe[s] a great debt of gratitude" to both senators.


Simon believed modern presidents practice "followership," rather than leadership", saying, "We have been more and more leaning on opinion polls to decide what we're going to do, and you don't get leadership from polls... and not just at the Presidential level. It's happening with Senators, House members, and even state legislators sometimes, [when they] conduct polls to find out where people stand on something."[22]

Simon was also a supporter of Taiwan and opposed United States policy to isolate Taiwan. He helped convince President Clinton to allow Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui to visit the United States.[23]

Personal life[edit]


Simon rose to national attention in the 1960s, due in part to his well-researched book, Lincoln's Preparation for Greatness: The Illinois Legislative Years. Despite being published 100 years after Abraham Lincoln's death, it was the first book to exhaustively cite original source documents from Lincoln's eight years in the General Assembly. He later went on to write more than 20 books on a wide range of topics, including interfaith marriages (he was a Lutheran and his wife, Jeanne, was a Catholic), global water shortages, United States Supreme Court nomination battles that focused heavily on his personal experiences with Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas, his autobiography, and even a well-received book on martyred abolitionist publisher Elijah Lovejoy. His final book, Our Culture of Pandering, was published in October 2003, two months before his death.

After his primary defeat for governor in 1972, Simon founded the Public Affairs Reporting graduate program at Sangamon State University in Springfield, Illinois,[24] which helped launch the careers of more than 500 journalists.[25] Simon, who had written four books at the time, also taught a course titled "Non-Fiction Magazine and Book Writing" at Sangamon State, and also taught at the John F. Kennedy School of Government in 1973.

Simon lived for many years in the small town of Makanda, Illinois, south of Carbondale, where he was a professor and director of the SIU Public Policy Institute. While there, he tried to foster the institute into becoming a think tank that could advance the lives of all people. Activities included going to Liberia and Croatia to monitor their elections, bringing major speakers to campus, denouncing the death penalty, trying to end the United States embargo against Cuba,[26] fostering political courage among his students, promoting an amendment to the United States Constitution to end the electoral college, and attempting to limit the president to a single six-year term of office. During the electoral college fiasco that followed the 2000 election, Simon said: "I think if somebody gets the majority vote, they should be president. But, I don't think the system is going to be changed."


Simon was the brother of Arthur Simon, founder of Bread for the World.

On April 21, 1960, Simon married Jeanne Hurley Simon, a member of the Illinois state legislature.[27] It was the first time in Illinois history that two sitting members of the Illinois General Assembly married. She was an integral part of her husband's rise to national prominence. She later became a successful lawyer, author, and chair of National Commission on Libraries and Information Science. She died in February 2000 of brain cancer.[28] Upon her death, Illinois Senator Dick Durbin delivered a tribute to Mrs. Simon on the senate floor.[29] Their daughter, Sheila Simon, became the 46th Lieutenant Governor of Illinois in January, 2011. She previously served as a councilwoman in Carbondale, Illinois and was a law professor at Southern Illinois University.[30]

Simon made a brief cameo appearance as himself in the 1993 political comedy film Dave.

In May 2001, Simon remarried to Patricia Derge, the widow of former Southern Illinois University President David Derge.


Simon appeared on Saturday Night Live with host and singer Paul Simon on December 19, 1987. Also on SNL, Simon was played by Al Franken who would later become a senator himself.


Paul Simon was inducted as a Laureate of The Lincoln Academy of Illinois and awarded the Order of Lincoln (the state's highest honor) by the Governor of Illinois in 1998 in the area of Government.[31]

Death and aftermath[edit]

Simon died in Springfield, Illinois following heart surgery at the age of 75 in 2003. WBBM-TV reported his death as a "massive gastric blow-out." Just four days before, despite being hospitalized and awaiting surgery, he had endorsed Howard Dean's 2004 presidential bid via a telephone conference call he conducted from his hospital bed.[32] He was also an early supporter of Barack Obama's 2004 bid for Senate. After Simon's death, his daughter, Sheila, made a television commercial in which she declared "Barack Obama will be a U.S. Senator in the Paul Simon tradition." The ad was considered a major reason for Obama's surprise victory in the Democratic primary. In the Senate, Obama praised Simon as a "dear friend."[33]

In July 2005, the Paul Simon Historical Museum was opened in Troy, Illinois, where Simon lived for 25 years. It included memorabilia from throughout his life, including the desk and camera from his days as a young editor of the Troy Tribune, items from his presidential campaign, and his lieutenant governor license plates.[34] The museum closed in June 2012, due to lack of funding.[35] Paul Simon Chicago Job Corps is a government funding school in which was named after him. PSCJC is located in the city of Chicago in Little Village on South Kedzie Ave and is available to people between the ages of 16-24 who are looking to better themselves and create a positive future for themselves.



  1. ^ Simon, Arthur R. (August 29, 2009). The Rising of Bread for the World: An Outcry of Citizens Against Hunger. Paulist Press. ISBN 9780809146000 – via Google Books.
  2. ^ "P.S."
  3. ^ "Simon, Paul Martin, (1928–2003)". Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. United States Congress. Retrieved 19 January 2010.
  4. ^ Dark Horse in a Bow Tie Michael Wright
  5. ^ "Troy Tribune Editor Becomes Army Enlistee". Edwardsville Intelligencer. Edwardsville, IL. May 16, 1951. p. 2 – via
  6. ^ a b "Wood River VFW Post Commended". The Telegraph. Alton, IL. August 22, 1952. p. 9 – via
  7. ^ "New York Times Had Long Lovejoy Story". The Telegraph. Alton, IL. November 19, 1952. p. 1 – via
  8. ^ "Lutheran Groups Hear Paul Simon". The Telegraph. Alton, IL. June 25, 1953. p. 19 – via
  9. ^ a b Rosenbaum, David (10 December 2003). "Paul Simon, Former Senator From Illinois, Is Dead at 75". New York Times. Retrieved 5 October 2014.
  10. ^
  11. ^ "The James W. Dodge Foreign Language Advocate Award". Northeast Conference on the Teaching of Foreign Languages. Archived from the original on August 21, 2014. Retrieved August 28, 2014.
  12. ^ Simon, Paul (March 1, 1994). "S.J.Res.41 - 103rd Congress (1993-1994): A joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States to require a balanced budget".
  13. ^ "Chicago Sun-Times Archive Search Results".
  14. ^ Former Sen. Paul Simon Dies Archived 2006-08-31 at the Wayback Machine Fox News
  15. ^ "Senator Al Franken looks back on his portrayal of the late Sen. Paul Simon". CNBC. New York, NY. September 8, 2017.
  16. ^ FCC Commissioners Review TV Violence Report John Eggerton
  17. ^ "U.S. Senate: U.S. Senate Roll Call Votes 104th Congress - 2nd Session".
  18. ^ "H.R. 3396 (104th): Defense of Marriage Act -- Senate Vote #280 -- Sep 10, 1996".
  19. ^ Tribute to Paul Simon Archived 2007-03-01 at the Wayback Machine Christopher Dodd
  20. ^ Somalia: U.S. Intervention and Operation Restore Hope Valerie J. Lofland
  21. ^ Rwanda Richard J. Norton
  22. ^ Simon: Time to reinvent the presidency Archived 2006-03-16 at the Wayback Machine Jason Coker
  23. ^ Lee Teng-hui now welcome to the USA Taiwan Communiqué
  24. ^ "The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute". Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.
  25. ^ "What You Can Do With This Degree - Public Affairs Reporting - UIS".
  26. ^ Open Trade Key to Changing Cuba, Sen. Simon Tells Cancun Conference Jack Lyne
  27. ^ "Jeanne Hurley Simon | Paul Simon Public Policy Institute | SIU".
  28. ^ NCLIS Chair Jeanne Simon Dies at 77 Archived 2008-05-17 at the Wayback Machine ALA
  29. ^ Congressional Record – Senate Archived 2007-06-30 at the Wayback Machine
  30. ^ "Capitol - Your Illinois News Radar » *** UPDATED x1 *** It's official: Quinn/Simon 2010".
  31. ^ "Laureates by Year - The Lincoln Academy of Illinois". The Lincoln Academy of Illinois. Retrieved 2016-02-26.
  32. ^ Awaiting surgery, Simon endorses Dean Chicago Tribune
  33. ^ Tone, Truth, and the Democratic Party Archived 2007-02-16 at the Wayback Machine Barack Obama
  34. ^ Simon museum will open in Troy Edwardsville Intelligencer
  35. ^ Modest Paul Simon Museum is forced to shut its doors St. Louis Post-Dispatch

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Lieutenant Governor of Illinois
Succeeded by
U.S. House of Representatives
Preceded by
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 24th congressional district

Constituency abolished
Preceded by
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Illinois's 22nd congressional district

Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by
Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Illinois
(Class 2)

1984, 1990
Succeeded by
U.S. Senate
Preceded by
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Illinois
Served alongside: Alan J. Dixon, Carol Moseley Braun
Succeeded by