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Paul Simon

The Political Journey of an Illinois Original

Robert E. Hartley

Publication Year: 2009

This is the first full-scale, objective account of Paul Simon's political career.

Published by: Southern Illinois University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-v


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xii

Paul Simon decided not to run for reelection to the United States Senate in 1996. He preferred to end a forty-year career in politics on a high note and exit the national stage a winner. Instead of a life of semileisure in which he might spend time reflecting, traveling, writing, and enjoying a slower pace...


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pp. xiii-xiv

Part One. Newspaper Years, 1948–55

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1. A Youthful “Ink-Stained Wretch”

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pp. 3-11

In the 1940s and 1950s, many a young man with journalistic yearnings believed that ownership of a weekly newspaper offered the opportunity of a lifetime. Who could pass up a chance to be his own boss and write editorials and columns about worldly subjects? Weekly newspapers existed then in most towns...

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2. Crusader and Politician

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pp. 12-34

Simon told the story frequently of his first encounter with the acceptance of gambling among citizens and elected officials. It happened less than a year after he began publishing the Tribune.1 One day Simon had lunch at a small restaurant in town. On the counter were punchboards. For a small fee, maybe a nickel or dime...

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3. Elective Office Beckons

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pp. 35-48

Heading into his second year as a soldier in Germany, Simon continued long-distance editorial writing on local and state subjects. The articles did not have the ring of passion that resonated before he entered the military, probably reflecting that he could not pick up a telephone and call a source...

Part Two. Climbing the Political Mountains, 1955–66

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4. Racetrack Runaround

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pp. 51-70

Never one to hesitate when it came to making his mark, Paul Simon began his legislative career in 1955 with banners flying. How else would anyone expect a freshman member of the House of Representatives in Springfield to be noticed? As the session began, Democrats found themselves in the minority...

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5. Corruption in Springfield

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pp. 71-79

Although many public officials withered and retreated in silence when confronted with misdeeds in the Illinois legislature, a handful did not, and they kept up a valiant if frustrating fight. That group included Simon, who never seemed to let disappointments and rebuffs cool his enthusiasm to do all he could to expose the practices...

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6. Newspaper Mogul

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pp. 80-91

Simon and his partners in the Troy Tribune, Johnsen and Fedder, had their eyes on the purchase of additional weekly papers. The three partners assumed that Fedder would move from Troy to manage the next paper purchased. While Fedder gave the Tribune additional strength in management...

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7. Spreading His Words

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pp. 92-116

Among Simon’s many opportunities for public attention, none served as consistently well, and as long, as the columns he wrote for papers across the state during seven legislative sessions. People knew more about where he stood than almost any other lawmaker. He provided the column, called...

Part Three. Rapid Rise, Sudden Fall, 1966–72

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8. The Big Bounce

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pp. 119-134

Paul Simon, newly elected to a second term in the Illinois state senate and buoyed by media attention, began thinking about 1968 and the prospect of a statewide campaign for the seat of Senator Dirksen. As he talked with media friends and made public appearances across the state, Simon encouraged quiet talk...

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9. An Agent of Great Change

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pp. 135-151

Selecting staff members was among the first duties for Simon as lieutenant governor. In the appointments of three, Simon began or continued close personal relationships that lasted the remainder of his life. The relationships were based on loyalty but even more on respect. The three he hired were Ray Johnsen...

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10. A Louder Voice

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pp. 152-162

While Cairo and SIU occupied much of the time of Simon and his staff, the tactic of providing regular commentary on state affairs continued. With a ready-made mailing list and fresh subject matter, Simon began his column “From the Statehouse” as soon as he was sworn in as lieutenant governor...

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11. Reaching for the Ring

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pp. 163-176

Simon’s efforts to keep his name in front of the public during the first three years as lieutenant governor set records not easily matched by any state officeholder. While the program had the unmistakable appearance of public relations and self-promotion, negative impressions appeared not to stick with the public...

Part Four. Beyond Defeat, 1972–97

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12. Interregnum

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pp. 179-185

Paul Simon could have lost much more than an election in his 1972 defeat by Daniel Walker. It could have been the permanent end of Simon’s storybook rise from small town weekly newspaper editor to one of the best-known Illinois politicians of his time...

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13. The Comeback

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pp. 186-203

Opportunity came like a lightning bolt in the summer of 1973 when U.S. Rep. Kenneth Gray, congressman from the southernmost district in Illinois, announced he would not seek reelection in 1974. Among Democrats, Gray had a reputation for making such announcements and then retracting the declaration...

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14. Full Redemption

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pp. 204-227

Political opportunity for Simon knocked again in 1983 as Illinoisans speculated about Charles Percy’s bid for a fourth term in the Senate. Percy looked like an enticing target for Democrats, especially after his close call for reelection in 1978. In that election—which Simon decided not to enter—Alex Seith...

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pp. 228-234

Many of the superlatives spoken about Paul Simon at the end of his life ring true, especially after weighing his triumphs and achievements against failures, controversies, and contradictions. The judgment is influenced by the character and moral convictions that drove his personal and professional...


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pp. 235-254


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pp. 255-258


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pp. 259-265

E-ISBN-13: 9780809386772
E-ISBN-10: 0809386771
Print-ISBN-13: 9780809329458
Print-ISBN-10: 080932945X

Page Count: 304
Illustrations: 21 b/w halftones
Publication Year: 2009

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Illinois -- Politics and government -- 1951-.
  • United States. Congress. Senate -- Biography.
  • Legislators -- United States.
  • Illinois -- Biography.
  • Simon, Paul, 1928-2003.
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