psimon.jpgPaul Simon, the bow-tie-wearing U.S. senator from Illinois, died on Dec. 9 after undergoing heart surgery. He was 75.
Simon was only 16 when he enrolled at the University of Oregon to study journalism. He transferred to Dana College in Nebraska, then dropped out at 19 to take over the Troy Tribune, a failing weekly newspaper in southern Illinois. As the nation’s youngest editor/publisher, Simon focused on crime and corruption, exposing local syndicate gambling connections. His newspaper coverage got the attention of then-Gov. Adlai Stevenson, who ordered a series of state police raids. Hailed in Life and Newsweek for his journalistic exploits, Simon was then asked to testify before the U.S. Senate hearing on organized crime. He eventually owned 13 newspapers before selling the chain in 1966.
After serving two years in the Army as an intelligence agent in Eastern Europe, Simon decided to delve into politics. He ran for the Illinois House of Representatives as a Democrat, won the election in 1953 and later served in the state Senate. He was elected lieutenant governor in 1968 — the first lieutenant governor in the state to be elected while belonging to a different party than the governor — then campaigned for the state’s top spot in 1972. He lost to Republican Dan Walker in the party primary.
Undaunted, Simon spent the next two years lecturing at universities before returning to the political arena. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1974, served five terms, and sat on the budget, labor and human resources, judiciary and Indian affairs committees. In 1984, he beat GOP Sen. Charles Percy, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, to win a seat in the U.S. Senate.
During his first term in the Senate, Simon decided to run for president. Although he won the Illinois primary, Simon dropped out of the race in 1988. He wrote the book, “Winners and Losers,” to describe his campaign experiences, and eventually penned 21 other books, including “Our Culture of Pandering” and “Healing America: Values and Vision for the 21st Century.”
During his second term in the Senate, Simon helped overhaul the federal student loan program and crusaded against violence on television. He retired in 1997 to teach political science and journalism at Southern Illinois University and to run the Public Policy Institute, a bipartisan think tank he also founded.