September 23, 2009

Hartley to sign his new book on Paul Simon

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A book that looks at the journalistic and early political career of the late U.S. Sen. Paul Simon is now available, with a book signing featuring the author set for early next month.

“Paul Simon: The Political Journey of an Illinois Original,” is written by former newspaper editor and Illinois political historian Robert E. Hartley. The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at Southern Illinois University Carbondale is hosting a book signing and reception from 10 to 11:30 a.m., Monday, Oct. 5, with Hartley delivering brief remarks at 10:30 a.m. Southern Illinois University Press published the book.

The 304-page book looks at Simon’s early career as a weekly newspaper editor and publisher, and also closely examines Simon’s years in the General Assembly and as lieutenant governor. Hartley said he first met Simon in 1964 while Simon was in the state senate, and over the years wrote many columns, articles, book reviews and book segments about him.

“That journalistic prelude to his active candidacy for public office is critical to Simon’s story and receives considerable attention in the book,” Hartley said. “There is emphasis on the years he served in the Illinois legislature and as lieutenant governor, because this is where he learned the legislative processes and constituent needs that determined his priorities.”

Hartley said he seriously thought about writing a book about Simon’s political career after Simon’s death in December 2003. The Public Policy Institute that Simon founded in 1996, just weeks after he retired from the U.S. Senate, bears his name.

“In regard to his 40 years in elective office, I identified the themes that followed him throughout the career and established his legacy in Illinois political history, as well as on the national scene as a member of Congress,” Hartley said. “There are many people who remember something about Simon. I want them to have the whole story of his political journey. If they do, I can predict they will learn something new about a well-known Illinois name.”

The book relies upon extensive research of Simon’s papers at Morris Library, the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, as well as prior interviews with Simon, and interviews with former Simon aides and associates

Institute Director David Yepsen said the book is “particularly strong on Paul’s early years in journalism, politics and his career in the legislature. It’s a good look at the forces that shaped his career and his values.”

“I think that’s important right now because of the ethical issues that face Illinois that we need to elect people to office who have some of the same personal ethics that he did,” Yepsen said. “I don’t mean you have to agree with his position on issues; you have to have an ethic of public service of trying to make government better, helping people, and most importantly, that you are in it to help others and not yourself.”

It is important in biographies today to “not just talk about what he did; let’s talk about why he did it and what shaped him,” Yepsen said. Simon early in his career stood up to “machine politicians” and exposed corruption, Yepsen said.

Simon’s daughter, Shelia, is a clinical associate professor at the SIU School of Law. She said she is pleased there is a book about her father, and looks forward to reading it. Hartley is “in a good position to write about Dad,” given his background and understanding of Illinois politics, she said.

“I think it’s significant to understand what kind of influences there were, what kind of things he fought against and fought for early on because there are some things that carry over from those early days to later on,” she said.

Simon also noted the nice connection between the book and next month’s official opening of the Sen. Paul Simon Papers. The opening is set for 2:30 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 18, at the John C. Guyon Auditorium in Morris Library.

Hartley, who lives in the Westminster, Colo., a suburb of Denver, is an author or co-author of several history and political-related books, including the 1999 book, “Paul Powell of Illinois: A Lifelong Democrat,” a book he said Simon urged him to write.

The Bookworm, 618 E. Walnut St., in the Eastgate Shopping Center, Carbondale, in the Eastgate Shopping Center, is coordinating book sales for the Oct. 5 event at the public policy institute. Copies of the book will be available for sale at the institute or before the event at The Bookworm, which has copies available.