Former Sen. Paul Simon’s pack rat tendencies have allowed the university to house an extensive collection of artifacts from his life.
Friends and family of Simon and faculty and staff at the university honored him with the dedication of the Senator Paul Simon Papers into the Special Collections Research Center Sunday at Morris Library.
Simon served in Illinois as a journalist, professor and politician. He held government positions as a state representative, state senator and lieutenant governor. Simon was known for his influences on passing bills for education and jobs, as well as his campaign for the 1987 Democratic nomination for president.
Sheila Simon, Simon’s daughter, said her father saved everything in his life and that’s why his congressional papers, photographs, personal library and artifacts fill up a significant part of the collections center.
“His way of getting rid of the newspaper was to take what he read in the front seat of his car and throw it in the back seat,” Sheila Simon said.
She said the collection is much more significant because of her father’s “pack ratting nature.”
“There is a lot of positive information to share,” Sheila Simon said. “What a fun thing to have: Dad’s papers available to everyone.”
Paul Simon’s papers reach 1,200 linear feet, which is almost twice as tall as the St. Louis Arch.
Walter Ray, political papers archivist, said he worked on compiling the papers for more than three years.
“I got to know (Paul Simon) through his papers,” Ray said. “It’s exciting that its now usable for students and researchers.”
The papers will also be part of a traveling exhibit throughout Illinois to Chicago, Troy and Benton.
David Yepsen, director of the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, said the papers have served as a bookend, or a support system, for the institute and he’s excited about the dedication of the papers to the public.
“I think people need the values of Paul Simon now more than ever,” Yepsen said.
Chancellor Sam Goldman said Simon wouldn’t have liked all the fuss the university is making about him, but would appreciate the university’s effort to honor his successes.
“I think he would have liked to be remembered for what he has accomplished,” Goldman said. “We’re very proud to remember him as a part of SIU.”
Erin Holcomb can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 255.