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The life of a principled conservative who was heavily involved in public policy and made a significant, positive influence on the nation.


William E. Simon’s Crusade for Liberty

The life of a principled conservative who was heavily involved in public policy and made a significant, positive influence on the nation.

How many Bill Simon Sr. fans know he was once crowned king of a Fiji Island? Or that it was Simon who had Jim Thorpe’s gold medals finally restored? Or that he was the recipient of a miracle at Medjugorje?

Simon, who had been Secretary of Treasury and “Energy Czar” under Nixon, in addition to being a successful businessman and decorated Roman Catholic layman, reflects on his remarkable career in his new posthumously published autobiography, A Time for Reflection. It is a clear tribute to American democracy and a fervent defense of freedom.

In fact, any conservatives who feel their movement in this country has lost its bearings would do well to pick up a copy of this book. Simon’s life could very well act as a lodestar for the movement he spent a lifetime defending.

Shortly before his death in 2000, Simon approved the final manuscript for his autobiography, which is the third book in a dynamic trilogy of sorts. The first two books, A Time For Truth and A Time For Action, came out in the late 1970s and are widely credited as seminal works in the conservative movement that blossomed with the Reagan presidency.

A Time For Reflection (published by Regnery, a sister company of HUMAN EVENTS) chronicles Simon’s life from his humble beginnings as a college graduate trying desperately to make ends meet for his burgeoning family. It spans his days on Wall Street where he built a fortune and a reputation that landed him in President Nixon’s cabinet. It explains his guidance of the U.S. Olympic Committee and his role in the leveraged buyout frenzy of the 1980s.

Through diligence, initiative and a good amount of risk-taking, Simon managed to be at the right place at the right time throughout his life, leaving his mark on finance and politics, sports, religion, and even as an explorer. The reader has a front seat for some of the most important events of the last century.

“President Nixon completed his brief address,” Simon writes of Nixon’s resignation, “and walked toward Ken and me, tears streaming down his cheeks, his mouth set in a quivering frown, and when he was a few feet from us he abruptly turned right and headed into the residence.”

William Tutt, former president of the United States Olympic Committee, writes, “He’s got guts, but he also has vision. Bill could see potential where others couldn’t.”

In 1980, the Republican vice presidential nomination was up for grabs and Ronald Reagan was waffling on his decision. At the time, a number of candidates were under consideration, including Simon, but Reagan was also contemplating a form of co-presidency with Gerald Ford. Simon barged into Reagan’s office and, in front of his aides, pulled himself out of the running for the position and set the future President straight on the co-presidency question.

Former Reagan aide Edward C. Schmults, recalls: “He really let Reagan know what he thought. Reagan just looked at Simon, and Simon spun around and walked out of the room. He marched in, spoke his piece and out he went. And Dick Allen said, ‘Well, no one ever said Bill Simon doesn’t have b–lls.'”

Simon’s account of his life is also a humble expression of gratitude and an acceptance of his weaknesses. He confesses that at times he failed to live up to his own ideals, evidenced most clearly by his temporary split from his wife, Carol, after 40 years of marriage.

Throughout the book, Bill Simon makes it clear that he lived by a simple creed, what he called his four pillars: family, faith, friends and freedom. He rode that creed on an American journey, which, in its influence on our history, is surpassed by few.

President Ford writes in his foreword to the book, “What has always struck me most about Bill is his commitment to the cause of freedom-and that commitment, and its source, is the hallmark of this memoir. . . Bill understood implicitly that liberty was not a permissive grant from government, but a natural right bestowed by God.”

“Shall freedom reign?” Simon asks future generations of Americans. “The answer is in our hands.”

Written By

Mr. Llull is a reporter for the Institutional Investor newsletter in New York City.

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