January 12, 2005

John Y. Simon wins lifetime achievement honor

by Paula Davenport

CARBONDALE, Ill. — Historian John Y. Simon — a respected authority on Ulysses S. Grant, Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War — is the recipient of a coveted lifetime achievement award from The Lincoln Forum.

Simon is a professor of history at Southern Illinois University Carbondale. He is also executive director of the Ulysses S. Grant Association, headquartered in the University's Morris Library.

He won the Forum's prestigious Richard N. Current Award of Achievement at the close of the group's annual meeting, held at year's end in Gettysburg, Pa.

The award, named for Lincoln Scholar Richard Nelson Current, comes in the form a Lincoln statuette.

In historical circles, Simon is known for amassing more than 200,000 documents on Grant, which he's energetically edited and organized over the past 42 years into the 26-volume "Papers of Ulysses S. Grant." In the future, Simon hopes to add another eight volumes to the set.

An engaging public speaker, Simon is also a popular lecturer and a scholar of the Civil War and Lincoln.

"John Y. Simon's life's work is one of the landmark achievements of our time. He has made history come alive, with a work ethic and work product that will continue to enrich, enlighten and inspire both readers and scholars for generations," Forum vice chairman Harold Holzer said in bestowing the prize.

Holzer added: "With ‘The Grant Papers' Simon has set the bar to a new level of excellence as a documentary editor. No historian will ever again write a book about the Civil War without consulting this essential and outstanding source."

Frank J. Williams, chairman of the Lincoln Forum said: "A brilliant scholar, a dazzling writer and an original, irreplaceable personality, Simon has enriched the world of Civil War studies and enriched the lives of those who know him."

A native of Chicago, Simon earned a bachelor's at Swarthmore College in 1955 and a master's and doctorate at Harvard University, in 1956 and 1961, respectively.

Universally considered the dean of American documentary editors, he is the recipient of accolades from many sources, including a special $20,000 Lincoln Prize in 2004.

He is the ninth scholar to win the Forum's award, whose previous recipients include Brian Lamb, Sam Waterson and the late Paul Simon, former U.S. senator and founder of SIUC's Public Policy Institute.

Leading in research, scholarly and creative activity is among the goals of "Southern at 150: Building Excellence through Commitment," a blueprint for the institution's development as it nears its 150th birthday in 2019.