William E. Simon Biography

William E Simon was a highly accomplished businessman and philanthropist, known for his successful career in both the government and private sectors. With a background in trading municipal bonds, he quickly rose through the ranks to become Vice President of Weeden & Co. Simon then held a prominent position at Salomon Brothers before transitioning to the role of treasury secretary in the Nixon administration. He continued to serve in this capacity under the Ford and Carter administrations before eventually returning to the private sector. Throughout his career, Simon sat on the boards of numerous prestigious companies and think tanks, including Xerox, Citibank, and the Heritage Foundation.

Quick Facts

  • Also Known As: William Edward Simon
  • Died At Age: 72
  • Family:
    • Spouse/Ex-: Carol Girard Simon, Tonia Donnelly
    • Children: Aimee Simon Bloom, Bill Simon, Carol Leigh Simon Porges, J. Peter Simon, Johanna Katrina Simon, Julie Ann Simon Munro, Mary Beth Simon Streep
  • Philanthropists
  • Political Leaders
  • Died on: June 3, 2000
  • Place of death: Santa Barbara, California, United States
  • Cause of Death: Pulmonary Fibrosis
  • Notable Alumni: Lafayette College
  • U.S. State: New Jersey
  • City: Paterson, New Jersey
  • More Facts
  • Education: Lafayette College

Childhood & Early Life

William Edward Simon was born on November 27, 1927 to Eleanor and Charles Simon Jr in Paterson, New Jersey. His father was an insurance executive by profession. He completed his formal education from Newark Academy. It was here that he was drafted to serve in the US Army Infantry. Relieved from his duties, he resumed his studies. He enrolled at the Lafayette College in Easton, Pennsylvania, and received his BA degree in 1952. While at the college, he was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity.


Immediately after completing his education, he commenced his career by working for Union Securities. Very soon, he took up the position of Vice President of Weeden & Co. However, he quit the same to serve as the senior partner and member of the seven-man Executive Committee. His profile included being in charge of the Government and Municipal Bond department at Salmon Brothers.

In 1973, he left his prolific Wall Street career to work as a deputy treasury secretary in Richard Nixon regime. His profile included restructuring and improving U.S. financial institutions. His outstanding work capabilities and brilliance earned him the post of director of the Federal Energy Office. With this, he became the first administrator of the organization. It was during this time that he became popularly known as the energy czar. Meanwhile, he also took over as the head of the President’s Oil Policy Committee and played an influential role in revising the mandatory oil import program in Aril 1973. Furthermore, he was also a member of the President’s Energy Resources Council and held the responsibility for coordinating both domestic and international energy policy.

In April 1974, on the recommendation of Attorney General John Mitchell, a former Wall Street lawyer and Treasury Secretary George P. Shultz, he was recruited to the chair of the treasury secretary, a post which he retained when the Nixon government gave way for Gerald R Ford to take over the administrative responsibilities. In the profile, he supported free markets and denounced government policies that either subsidized or penalized businesses. Under Ford regime, he was appointed to the post of the Chairman of the Economic Policy Board and chief spokesman for the administration on economic issues in August 1974. The following year, in April, he was named Chairman of the newly created East-West Foreign Trade Board, established under the authority of the Trade Act of 1974. His term as the Secretary of Treasury ended on January 22, 1977.

After his service in the government sector, he shifted to the private sector and started working as a Vice Chairman at Blyth Eastman Dillon. He rendered his services to the company for three years. Thereafter, along with Ray Chambers, he co-founded Wesray Capital Corporation, which was a leveraged buyout (LBO) firm. The company in 1982 made a million dollar investment in equity capital and took over a Cincinnati-based greeting card company, Gibson Greetings for $80 million. In the next eighteen months it became a public enterprise and was worth $66 million. In 1984, he introduced WSGP International, which focused on making investments in real estate and financial service organizations. The firm concentrated on the western United States belt and the Pacific Rim. Four years later, he collaborated with his sons William E. Simon Jr. and J. Peter Simon to found the global merchant bank, William E. Simon & Sons. The bank had offices based in New Jersey, Los Angeles, and Hong Kong. The bank focused on providing venture capital. In 1990, he joined hands with several investors to form the firm, Catterton-Simon partners. A private equity based firm, it focused on beverages and other consumer products.

Personal Life & Legacy

He went into the wedlock with Carol Girard Simon in 1950. Together the couple was blessed with seven children – two sons and five daughters. The death of Carol in 1995 led him to remarry in 1996 to Tonia Adams Donnelley. The couple lived together until his death in 2000. During his life, he was involved in several humanitarian and philanthropic activities. He established the William E. Simon Center for the Professional Military Ethic at U.S. Military Academy at West Point. He established the William E. Simon Center for Strategic Studies, as well as a Simon professorship at the U.S. Air Force Academy. He breathed his last on June 3, 2000, due to complications of pulmonary fibrosis 2000 in Santa Barbara, California. He was buried in Laurel Grove Memorial Park, Totowa, New Jersey. Posthumously, in 2001, the William E. Simon Prize for Philanthropic Leadership was established and has since been awarded to distinguished living donors, including John T. Walton, John Templeton, and Phil Anschutz. The Intercollegiate Studies Institute dedicated a $40,000 cash prize in honor of Secretary Simon starting 2004. Each year since then, the William E. Simon Fellowship for Noble Purpose has been awarded to a college senior desiring to live a life dedicated to serving humanity.

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