Center mourns the loss of board member Paul Simon
Reprinted from From The New York Times
December 10, 2003
Paul Simon, former Senator from Illinois, dead at 75
Paul Simon, a five-term Democratic congressman and two-term senator from Illinois who ran unsuccessfully for his party's presidential nomination in 1988 and retired from politics seven years ago, died on Tuesday in Springfield, Ill. He was 75.
His death was announced by Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, where he established a public policy institute after he left politics, and by St. John's Hospital in Springfield, where he had heart surgery on Monday.
Mr. Simon was a strong advocate of government solutions to social problems. He favored direct federal loans to college students, costly programs to create jobs and national adult literacy programs, and he had no problem with keeping taxes high to pay for them. "I want a government that cares," he declared in his campaigning. "I want a government that helps people."
But on some issues he broke with conventional liberal dogma. He supported a constitutional amendment to require a balanced federal budget, a line-item veto so the president could strike individual elements from spending bills and measures to limit violence on television.
A close friend, former Senator Dale Bumpers, Democrat of Arkansas, said in an interview after Mr. Simon's death: "Not once in 12 years together in the Senate did I see him trim his sails or hedge his thinking to accommodate a political purpose. I never served with anybody else who voted his conscience every time."
Mr. Simon cultivated a reputation as an intellectual straight arrow. Before entering politics, he owned a weekly newspaper in Southern Illinois and crusaded against corruption. Over the years, he wrote more than a dozen books. And he began releasing his personal financial records in the 1950's, when few other politicians were doing so.
He embellished this image with big horn-rimmed glasses and with bow ties, which he started wearing as a young politician in Illinois and which became his trademark when he ran for president.
Paul Martin Simon was born in Oregon in 1928, the son of a Lutheran minister who had just returned from missionary work in China. The family moved to Illinois when he was a teenager.
In 1948, after his junior year at Dana College in Nebraska, he dropped out, borrowed $3,600 from a bank and bought The Tribune, a failing weekly paper in Troy, Ill., a town of 1,500 across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. That year his paper endorsed Thomas E. Dewey for president over Harry S. Truman.
In his autobiography, published in 1999, Mr. Simon recalled his crusading against the area's brothels and gambling dens, and being denounced as a socialist when he started a drive for a municipal sewer system. In 1951, an admiring reporter for another newspaper, The East St. Louis Journal, began an article about him this way: "You still can raise a lot of hell with a country printing press." Mr. Simon eventually bought 13 other small newspapers, then sold his chain in 1966.
By 1954, Mr. Simon had become a member of the Democratic Party, which was dominant in Southern Illinois, and at the age of 25 was elected that year to the Illinois House. He gradually moved up the political ladder, elected a state senator in 1962 and lieutenant governor in 1968.
In Springfield, he met and married Jeanne Hurley, a lawyer who was one of the few women in the legislature. She died in 2000. They had a daughter, Sheila, and a son, Martin. In 2001, Mr. Simon married Patricia Derge. He is survived by her and his children, and by a stepdaughter, Jennie Derge, and six grandchildren.
In 1972, Mr. Simon ran for governor as the favored candidate of the state's Democratic boss, Mayor Richard J. Daley of Chicago, but lost in the primary to Daniel Walker, a corporate lawyer.
After teaching at a college for two years, he was elected to the House of Representatives in 1974, the year of a national Democratic landslide that followed the Watergate scandal. He was not particularly popular with his colleagues in the House. Seeking more influence, he ran to be chairman of the Budget Committee and finished a distant third. But in 1984, he challenged a three-term Republican senator, Charles H. Percy, and won a narrow victory.
Barely two years into his Senate term, Mr. Simon began campaigning for the 1988 Democratic presidential nomination. In his announcement, he said he would not abandon Democratic principles. "I'm glad there is a Republican Party," he declared, "but one Republican Party is enough."
His campaign slogan was "Isn't it time to believe again?" Mr. Simon began the election year with a close second-place finish to Representative Richard A. Gephardt of Missouri in the Iowa caucuses. But except for victory in the Illinois primary, his campaign faltered. Short of money, he was forced to drop out of the race.
Mr. Simon returned to the Senate undaunted and won re-election in 1990. He joined the Republican leadership's campaign for a balanced-budget amendment and provided crucial support for the North American Free Trade Agreement. That support, it was said, gave cover to other, less established Democratic senators to vote for the accord.
Among the Senate committees on which Mr. Simon served was the Judiciary, where, at a hearing that led to Clarence Thomas's confirmation to the Supreme Court, the nominee commented that when he was in college, he thought he could change the world.
"Some of us," Mr. Simon said, "still think we can change the world."