Paul Simon (Politician) Biography

Paul Martin Simon was a newspaperman, politician, and academician who dedicated his life to public service. From his early days as a school president, he fought for racial integration and equal opportunities. Transitioning from journalism to politics, Simon became a highly effective legislator, passing numerous amendments and advocating for better governmental service. He was a champion of education and healthcare, while also promoting fiscal conservatism. Simon’s commitment to civil rights and opposition to the death penalty set him apart, and he even sought to end the embargo on Cuba and supported humanitarian missions. Despite facing criticism for his socialist outlook, Simon maintained an incorruptible image and was known as “Reverend.” Inspired by the liberalism of Roosevelt and Truman, he authored numerous books on diverse topics. Paul Martin Simon left a lasting legacy as a tireless advocate for the people and their well-being.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: Paul Martin Simon
  • Died At Age: 75
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Jeanne Hurley Simon, Patricia Derge
    • Father: Martin Simon
    • Mother: Ruth Tolzmann
    • Siblings: Arthur Simon
    • Children: Martin Simon, Sheila Simon
  • Political Leaders
  • American Men
  • Died on: December 9, 2003
  • Place of Death: Springfield, Illinois, United States
  • U.S. State: Oregon
  • Cause of Death: Complications Following Heart Surgery
  • Notable Alumni: Dana College
  • City: Eugene, Oregon
  • Founder/Co-Founder: Paul Simon Public Policy Institute
  • Education: University of Oregon, Dana College

Childhood & Early Life

Paul Simon was born on November 29, 1928, to Martin Simon, a Lutheran minister, and Ruth Tolzmann, a Lutheran missionary. They instilled in him a strict sense of Christian morality. He attended public schools in Eugene and the Concordia Academy High School in Portland, Oregon, after which he enrolled at the University of Oregon, and Dana College, Nebraska but couldn’t finish his graduation.


In 1948, he borrowed money to take over and run the newspaper, ‘Troy Call’ renaming it as ‘Troy Tribune’, and subsequently he established a string of 14 weekly newspapers. He used the Tribune to expose gambling, prostitution and government corruption and was called to testify as a witness before the US Senate’s Crime Investigating Committee. In 1951, he left the newspaper industry and enlisted in the US Army. He worked as a special agent along the Iron Curtain in Europe for the Counter-Intelligence Corps and was discharged in 1953.

Paul Simon, a democrat, started his political career in 1955, with his election to the Illinois House of Representatives at the young age of 26. In 1963, he was elected to Illinois State Senate and was one of the key sponsors of the State’s Open Meetings Law and the legislation creating the Illinois Arts Council. In 1969, he became the Lieutenant Governor of Illinois. He served alongside Republican Governor, Richard B. Ogilvie to produce the state’s first income tax and the constitutional convention which created the fourth Illinois Constitution. In 1974, he was elected to the Congress on a Democratic ticket from Illinois and was re-elected to four subsequent Congresses. In 1984, he was elected to the US Senate defeating three-term incumbent Charles H. Percy. In 1988, he tried to earn nomination for the post of President on a Democratic ticket but was unsuccessful, as he was little known outside of Illinois. In 1990, he was re-elected to the US Senate defeating Congresswoman Lynn Morley Martin. He did not participate in the re-election in the next electoral year.

After his retirement from politics in 1996, he joined Southern Illinois University in Carbondale as a Professor, where he taught political science, history and journalism. He served as the Director of the SIU Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois which was later renamed in his honour. The books he wrote included ‘A Hungry World’, ‘You Want to Change the World? So Change It’, ‘The Tongue-Tied American’ and ‘The Politics of World Hunger’, which he co-authored with his brother Rev. Arthur Simon. He authored a number of laws including the National Literacy Act, the direct student loan program, the School-to-Work Opportunities Act and the Job Training Partnership Act amendments. The legislation he introduced resulted in the formation of the first five federally chartered high-speed corridors including the St. Louis-Chicago-Detroit/Milwaukee corridor. He sponsored the bill that extended the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial to Illinois and the bill that created the Illinois-Michigan Canal National Heritage Corridor.

Major Works

Paul Simon was one of the main sponsors of the Missing Children Act of 1982 which led to the formation of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. His effort to curtail television violence resulted in setting standards on violence by broadcasting networks, the Parental Advisory System and an independent monitoring system in 1994. He wrote a well-researched book, ‘Lincoln’s Preparation for Greatness: The Illinois Legislative Years’. He had referred to original documents from Lincoln’s tenure in the General Assembly and the book was well received nation-wide.

Awards & Achievements

Paul Simon won the ‘Best Legislator Award’ of Independent Voters of Illinois seven times during his 14 years in the Illinois legislature from 1954.

Personal Life & Legacy

On April 21, 1960, Paul Simon married Jeanne Hurley, a Catholic. Both of them were serving in the Illinois House. They had two children, Sheila and Martin. Jeanne died in 2000. In May 2001, while working as a professor at Southern Illinois University, he married Patricia Derge, widow of former Southern Illinois University President David Derge. He passed away on December 9, 2003, at the age of 75, in Springfield, Illinois following a heart surgery. He was interred in Makanda, Illinois. The Paul Simon Historical Museum which exhibited memorabilia from throughout his life was opened in Troy, Illinois in 2005. But it closed after seven years, due to lack of funding.


This politician adopted the bowtie and horned glasses as his trademark after a remark in a newspaper which said that “the man with the bowtie did well”. During one of his campaigns, this politician co-hosted Saturday Night Live along with his namesake musician, Paul Simon.

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