I first met Paul Simon during the 1965 legislature. He was as fearless a man as ever served in public office. The threats of criminal elements in his district bounced off him like raindrops. Elected originally to the Illinois house, Paul made it to the senate, where he was the bane of the Daley Machine.
Paul was part of a brave band of rebels in the Illinois legislature: Abner Mikva, Anthony Scariano, Leland Rayson, Bob Mann and others fought the good fight. In 1965, they had a new champion, Adlai Stevenson III who has been elected in the 1964 "bed sheet ballot." Paul and the others had the street smarts; Adlai had the name, and visibility.
It was a close knit band of rebels and I was a very
junior, and student, member, doing research, going to Springfield, working in campaigns. I almost left law school and went to work for Adlai during the 1966 campaign; I suppose life would have been different if I had.
I became good friends with Paul; he was an occasional visitor in my home. I worked for his election as Lt. Governor in 1968, although I think we were surprised when he won and a Republican was elected governor.
When the Illinois Supreme Court attacked me, Paul Simon came to my defense.
I recently ran into former congressman Paul Findley and we discussed some of the old lions of the 60’s and 70’s. We both spoke fondly of Paul, who had settled back in southern Illinois.
It’s hard to believe Paul is gone. Jeanne Simon died several years ago, and that was hard to accept as well.
As I look across the political landscape, courage and independence have almost completely disappeared from politics. Conformity is "in." There are no more lions in the Illinois legislature, no more Paul Simons unafraid to stand up to organized crime in Madison County, no more Paul Simons willing to throw monkey wrenches at the machinations of the Daley organization.
Where did all those years go? Where did all those leaders go? Like "Puff the Magic Dragon," they have disappeared from the political stage. Tony Scariano is retired; Abner Mikva is active, but no young lions followed in the ranks. Illinois is poorer for it. I tried my best, but I did not see myself as a worthy successor to the great men of Illinois politics. I’m still trying.
Paul will be missed. And I will miss him dearly.