U.S. Senator Paul Simon

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Paul Simon

U.S. Senator Paul Simon - Institute Founder (1928 - 2003)

Paul Simon was a professor at Southern Illinois University, where he taught classes in political science, history, and journalism. He joined SIU's faculty in 1997 -- just weeks after retiring from the U.S. Senate. Simon made his home in tiny Makanda, Illinois (population 402), and taught at the nearby SIU Carbondale campus. Simon was founder and director of the Public Policy Institute at the Carbondale campus. The Institute opened its doors in 1997 and promises to "find new ways of solving some very old problems," said Simon.

Prior to leaving the U.S. Senate, Simon ranked as Illinois' senior senator. In the 104th Congress, he served on the budget, labor, and human resources, judiciary, and Indian affairs committees. He has also served on the foreign relations committee.

Enacted education and job training laws he wrote include the National Literacy Act, the School-To-Work Opportunities Act, the Job Training Partnership Act amendments, several provisions of the Goals 2000 Act and the 1994 reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. He was the leading Senate champion of the new direct college loan program, enacted in 1991 as a pilot program and expanded in 1993 as a replacement for the guaranteed student loan program. 

He was chief Democratic sponsor of the balanced budget amendment. The drive he spearheaded to curb television violence led to the first joint standards on violence by the broadcast networks, the Parental Advisory System and the new independent monitoring programs launched by the broadcast and cable networks in 1994.

Legislation he initiated led to the designation of the first five federally chartered future, high-speed rail corridors, including the St. Louis-Chicago-Detroit/Milwaukee corridor.

In November 1994, as Illinois' leading statewide Democratic officeholder and with the strongest political standing of his public service career, Paul Simon announced that he would retire from the Senate when his term expired January 3, 1997.


Simon, a Democrat, was born November 29, 1928, in Eugene, Oregon. He attended the University of Oregon and Dana College in Blair, Nebraska. At the age of 19, Simon became the nation's youngest editor-publisher when he accepted a local Lion's Club challenge to save the Troy Tribune in Troy, Illinois, near St. Louis. He built a chain of 13 newspapers in southern and central Illinois, which he sold in 1966 to devote full-time to public service and writing.

Simon used the Tribune to expose syndicate gambling connections in Madison County. In 1951, at age 22, he was called as a key witness to testify before the U.S. Senate's Crime Investigating Committee.

Simon served two years, 1951-53, in the U.S. Army and was assigned to the Counter-Intelligence Corps as a special agent along the Iron Curtain in Europe.


He was elected to the Illinois House in 1954 and to the Illinois Senate in 1962. During his 14 years in the legislature, he won the Independent Voters of Illinois' "Best Legislator Award" every session. Simon began earning a reputation for political courage and integrity during his years in the legislature. He was the chief sponsor of the state's Open Meetings Law and of legislation creating the Illinois Arts Council, and he played a leading role in chartering the state's community college system.

In 1960, Paul Simon married Jeanne Hurley of Wilmette, whom he met while both served in the Illinois House. Jeanne Simon died in February 2000. They had two children, Sheila and Martin, three granddaughters, Reilly Marie, Corey Jeanne and Brennan, and one grandson, Nicholas. In May 2001, he married Patricia Derge, the widow of a former SIU president, David Derge, who died in 1996. Patti Simon has two children, Jennie and Bill.

Simon was elected lieutenant governor in 1968 and was the first in the state's history to be elected to that post with a governor of another party. In that office, he became the people's ombudsman and is widely credited with turning what had been a ceremonial position into one focused on making government better serve its citizens.

After narrowly losing the 1972 Democratic gubernatorial primary to Dan Walker, Simon started the public affairs reporting program at Sangamon State University in Springfield, Illinois (now the University of Illinois at Springfield), and lectured during the 1972-73 school year at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.


Simon was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1974 and served Illinois' 22nd and 24th Congressional Districts for 10 years. During his service in the House, Simon played a leading role in drafting and enacting major legislation in a wide range of issue areas including education, disability policy, and foreign affairs. He was the chief sponsor of the Missing Children Act and of subsequent legislation that established the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. 

He helped win passage of the bill that created both the Illinois-Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor and the extension to Illinois of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, the national park associated with St. Louis' Gateway Arch. He was the chief House advocate for the nation's so-called "atomic veterans" and their families. Always known as an effective legislator, Simon, according to Time magazine, passed more amendments in 1983 than any other member of the House of Representatives. While in the House, he worked closely with Newt Gingrich in establishing the office of House Historian.

In 1984, Simon upset three-term incumbent Charles Percy to win election to the U.S. Senate. In 1987-88, he sought the Democratic nomination for president. He won re-election to the U.S. Senate in 1990 by defeating Congresswoman Lynn Martin with 65 percent of the vote and by nearly 1 million votes -- the largest plurality of any contested candidate for senator or governor of either party that year.

During his years as a public official, Paul Simon was known for exceptional constituent service. His office handled more cases each year than almost any other Senate office. He also was the Senate's pacesetter in convening town meetings. As a senator, Simon held more than 600 town meetings throughout the state, more than any U.S. senator from Illinois in the state's history. For 40 consecutive years -- longer than any other federal officeholder -- Simon released an annual detailed financial disclosure report for himself and his wife.


Simon died December 9, 2003, in Springfield following complications from heart surgery.