Simon, Paul (Martin) 1928-2003

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SIMON, Paul (Martin) 1928-2003


See index for CA sketch: Born November 29, 1928, in Eugene, OR; died of multiple organ failure after a heart operation, December 9, 2003, in Springfield, IL. Politician, journalist, and author. Simon was a prominent Illinois politician who served as a Democrat at the state level and in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. A bright student who enrolled at the University of Oregon when he was only sixteen and became student body president at Dana College when he was eighteen, Simon nevertheless never completed a college degree. Instead, he took advantage of an opportunity to buy a weekly newspaper in Troy, Illinois, in 1948. As a newspaper publisher from 1948 to 1966, Simon grew his business into fourteen weekly papers, while also gaining considerable attention for his exposé reporting. As a journalist, he exposed corruption in gambling, organized crime, and local politics in Illinois, drawing considerable attention to these issues in 1951 when he testified before a U.S. Senate committee on crime. After serving in the U.S. Army from 1951 to 1953, Simon returned home to continue building a reputation for unrelenting honesty in journalism. This gained the attention of the Democratic Party, which convinced him to run for the Illinois House of Representatives, a campaign he won in 1954. He served in the House until 1963, when he was elected to the Illinois Senate. Devoting himself more and more to politics, Simon combined his journalism skills with his insider's knowledge of politics to writing another scathing exposé in 1964—this time, he exposed corruption in the Illinois General Assembly, whose members were, he asserted, taking money from special interests such as the racing industry. Although Simon's article, which was published in Harper's, earned him many enemies, his political career continued unabated. Simon sold his chain of newspapers in 1966, and three years later became lieutenant governor of Illinois. Leaving office briefly in 1972, he taught at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard for a year and founded a public affairs reporting program at Sangamon State University. However, he returned to politics to run for U.S. Congress and was elected to the House of Representatives, where he served from 1975 to 1985, and to the U.S. Senate, where he remained from 1985 until his retirement from politics in 1996. As a politician in Washington, DC, Simon gained considerable respect from both parties for his integrity as he worked to pass legislation in such areas as education, the budget, crime, immigration, the environment, and health care. Serving on the House Budget Committee and the Education and Labor subcommittee on higher education, Simon secured the passing of the Missing Children Act, streamlined the student loan application process, wrote new immigration policies that granted amnesty to thousands of undocumented immigrants, and advocated for less violence in the media, among other initiatives. Although Simon failed in a 1987 bid to become the Democrats' nominee for President, as well as failing to earn a spot as chair of the House Budget Committee, he still managed many legislative accomplishments while in office. However, by 1996 he had become disenchanted with the increasing partisan-ship and political pandering in the federal government—a subject about which he wrote in his last book, Our Culture of Pandering (2003)—and he decided not to run for the Senate again. Instead, Simon became the director of the Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University in 1996. He remained interested in politics until the end, however, one of his last acts before his death being to endorse Democrat Howard Dean in his bid for the Presidential nomination. Simon also remained a prolific author who penned over twenty books, including A Hungry World (1966), You Want to Change the World? So Change It! (1971), The Glass House: Politics and Morality in the Nation's Capital (1984), We Can Do Better: How to Save America's Future—An Open Letter to President Clinton (1994), P.S.: The Autobiography of Paul Simon (1999), and, with Michael Dukakis, How to Get into Politics and Why (2000).



Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd edition, Gale (Detroit, MI), 1998.


Chicago Tribune, December 10, 2003, section 1, pp. 1, 6.

Independent (London, England), December 11, 2003, p. 22.

Los Angeles Times, December 10, 2003, p. B12.

New York Times, December 10, 2003, p. C15.

Times (London, England), December 17, 2003.

Washington Post, December 10, 2003, p. B6.