By Ron Peters
In planning this issue of Extensions, I had the great pleasure of renewing my acquaintance with former Senator Paul Simon of Illinois. Senator Simon had agreed to contribute an article sharing his reflections on Supreme Court nominations, an area of his active involvement in the Senate. It was with the greatest shock and regret, then,that I learned of his sudden passing only two weeks after our conversation.
Paul Simon was an unusually talented man who enjoyed an unusually accomplished career. He started out in the newspaper business at a very young age, and by his mid-30s he had built a successful newspaper chain. Along the way, he was elected to the Illinois House of Representatives in 1954 at age 26 and Lieutenant Governor of Illinois in 1968. Four years later he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, where he served five terms before being elected to the Senate in 1984. He ran unsuccessfully for the presidency in 1988, and retired from the Senate in 1996.
In addition to his distinguished political career, Senator Simon was a prolific author. He wrote 19 books, some published by the University of Oklahoma Press. He was an avid historian and his range of public policy interests was vast.
We at the Carl Albert Center owe a special debt of gratitude to Paul Simon. As the chairman of the House Education Committee's Subcommittee on Postsecondary Education he was instrumental in passing authorizing legislation supporting the Center. When, later, legislation on behalf of the Center was advanced in the Senate, Senator Simon was on hand to offer crucial support. We felt that providence had carried him from the House to the Senate just so he could be there to help us.
In his last years Paul Simon served as a professor and director of the Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University. He was ideally suited to both roles. His deep baritone voice and commitment to young people were ideally suited to the role of college professor. He always dressed like a professor anyway. His passionate interest in and commitment to public policy framed his long and illustrious political career. During that career he touched many lives, including those of us at the Carl Albert Center.
It was with great sadness that we at the Carl Albert Center learned of the passing of Barber Conable in December. Congressman Conable served the Rochester, New York area in the House of Representatives for twenty years. He was among those long-suffering Republicans who were never able to serve in a Republican House majority. But as a member of the minority party he nevertheless compiled a distinguished reputation as a legislator and public servant.
Congressman Conable served as a marine in World War II and was a graduate of Cornell University and that university's college of law. He opened a local law practice in Batavia in 1952, and was elected to the New York state Senate in 1962. He was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1964 and served there until his retirement in 1984.
Without doubt, Congressman Conable is best remembered for his service on the House Ways and Means Committee, where he made a substantial impact on federal tax policy and other legislation within the jurisdiction of Ways and Means, including Social Security. While serving as the committee's ranking Republican member, Conable was able to work with both Republicans and Democrats to forge bipartisan legislation. His remarkable grasp of legislative detail and policy facts enabled him to win support for his positions even among members either more liberal or more conservative than was he.
Our association with Barber Conable came in 1985, after his retirement from the House. One of the Carl Albert Center's most successful programs is our biennial Julian J. Rothbaum Lecture in Representative Government. The lectures are offered in odd-numbered years and lead to publication of a book by the University of Oklahoma Press. Former Congressman and then New York University President John Brademas inaugurated the lecture series in 1983. In 1985 Barber Conable presented the second Rothbaum Lectures on the topic of "Congress and the Income Tax." The book by this title was published in 1987. In his lectures and in the book, Conable traced the history of the Ways and Means Committee as he had experienced it and provided an insider's understanding of the legislative process. The book is an invaluable resource.
Not long after delivering his lectures here Mr. Conable was called again to public service, this time as president of the World Bank. He served at the World Bank from 1986 until 1991, dealing with critical issues in international economic development. There, he argued for the vital role of the United States in international affairs and their attendant organizations. He was also active in other areas of public policy, leading the National Committee on U.S.-China Relations for ten years and serving as the chairman of the Executive Committee of the Smithsonian Institution for seven years. He was avidly interested in Native American history and culture.
So, we shall remember Barber Conable as both a distinguished public
servant and as a good friend of the Carl Albert Center. In both
capacities, he will be missed.