Paul Simon


Show Summary Details

Quick Reference

(b. Eugene, Oregon, 29 Nov. 1928; d. Springfield, Illinois, 9 December 2003)

US; member of the US House of Representatives 1975–84, US senator 1985–96 Simon's parents were both heavily involved in the Lutheran church—his father as a minister and his mother as a missionary. Educated at the University of Oregon and Dana College in Blair, Nebraska, Simon's career started with a period as the editor and publisher of a small newspaper. After army service (where he worked in counter-intelligence) Simon ran successfully for the State Legislature. He served in the lower Illinois chamber 1954–62 and was elected to the state Senate in 1962, securing re-election in 1966. In 1968 Simon was elected Lieutenant Governor although the Democratic nominee for Governor was defeated. In 1972 Simon's own gubernatorial bid failed as he was beaten by Daniel Walker, who had chaired the Chicago Crime Commission.

Simon left politics briefly in 1972 for academic life but in 1974 he successfully ran for the Illinois 24th district following the incumbent's retirement. In 1984 Simon pulled off a surprise victory against Republican Charles Percy to win the Senate seat.

In Congress, Simon was generally regarded as a liberal and a reliable friend of organized labour. In the Senate he sat on the Labor and Human Resources Committee, Judiciary, Budget, and Foreign Relations. He was an opponent of the increased defence spending of the Reagan era, voting against new weapons systems such as MX, SDI, and the B1 bomber. He was also opposed to many of the Reagan judicial nominations and voted against Robert Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court in 1987.

In 1988 he made a bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. He made a virtue of his distinctive appearance (bow ties and horn-rimmed glasses) and his unpackaged self-presentation. However, he came fourth in a race which included not only Michael Dukakis but also Albert Gore and Jesse Jackson. He retired from the Senate in 1996 and in 1997 founded the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University, of which he was the director.

Subjects: Politics.

Reference entries

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.