July 08, 2008

Noted historian, scholar John Y. Simon dies at 75

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- John Y. Simon, the award-winning historian and longtime Southern Illinois University Carbondale professor who served for many years as the executive director of the Ulysses S. Grant Association, died this morning (July 8). He was 75.

Simon earned his bachelor’s degree in 1955 from Swarthmore College and a year later he received his master’s from Harvard University. He earned his doctorate at Harvard University in 1961 and taught at The Ohio State University before beginning his long association with SIUC and the Ulysses S. Grant Association.

A noted authority on Grant, Simon led the association since 1962. He collected hundreds of thousands of documents about Grant, editing and organizing them over a period more than 40 years into an unrivaled collection, “Papers of Ulysses S. Grant”. The Association is currently wrapping up work on the 31st and final volume. SIUC’s Morris Library houses both the collection and the Association.

Within the University’s history department, Simon was an associate professor and later a professor. An authority on the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln as well as Grant, Simon was a popular public speaker. He wrote and edited numerous historical works, served as a consultant on numerous occasions and held variety of offices, primarily in historical organizations.

“Dr. Simon’s contribution as a scholar, a teacher and a historian is well recognized nationally and worldwide,” Interim Chancellor Samuel Goldman said. “He has brought credit and renown to Southern Illinois University.”

Simon won a number of awards, including the lifetime achievement award from The Lincoln Forum, the Award of Merit from the Illinois State Historical Society, the $20,000 Lincoln Prize from the Gilder Lehrman Foundation, the Distinguished Service Award and the Julian P. Boyd Award from the Association for Documentary Editing, and the Delta Award from the Friends of Morris Library.

Arrangements for Simon are pending. Wife Harriet, daughter Ellen and two grandchildren survive him.