Eulogy for William E. Simon

  Sadly, I will be traveling to New York tomorrow to attend funeral services at St. Patrick's Cathedral for a colleague from the Nixon years, my great friend, William E. Simon (November 27, 1927 - June 3, 2000). We've been reminded by obituaries in recent days that Bill Simon was one of the giants of our time. I first met Bill when he left his successful investment- banking career to come to Washington in late-1972 as Deputy Secretary of the Treasury. He gained great respect for taking on the toughest jobs. Among them was serving as Energy Czar during the energy crisis of 1974. He won worldwide acclaim for his work. He was appointed Secretary of the Treasury in 1974, and served with distinction under Presidents Nixon and Ford. But those things are not the source of Bill's greatness. After he left government, Bill became treasurer of the International Olympic Committee. President Carter urged the committee to boycott the Moscow Olympics in 1980, to protest the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan; but the sports establishment fought against doing so. Bill gave an impassioned speech before the House of Delegates, and it was his principled stand that swung the vote in favor of the boycott.
Later, he was elected President of the Olympics. Bill raised funds to pull them out of debt, putting the Olympics on a business-like basis. But that's not the greatness of Bill Simon either. Bill made a fortune in the eighties buying distressed companies and turning them around. He then gave away much of his fortune through philanthropy. But this wasn't the source of his greatness. When I worked with him, I knew Bill to be shrewd, dedicated, and tough as nails. And those traits remained, but later in life Bill changed as his faith became the center of his life. He called me one day and asked if he could go into prison with me; that turned out to be one of the greatest days of his life, and mine. We not only visited the InnerChange prison in Texas, but spent an afternoon on death row. Bill walked from cell to cell, reaching through the bars, tears rolling down his cheeks as he listened and shared his faith. A sight I will never forget was Bill Simon, former Treasury Secretary, head of the Olympic Committee, and one of the most powerful men in America, kneeling on the concrete floor, praying with an African-American inmate condemned to die. Bill spent his later years seeking out "the least of these." He ministered to those in AIDS homes, hospices, and facilities for the mentally handicapped -- helping people in need. He was recently quoted in the press as saying, "Writing checks for charities is necessary and important, but it can't compete with corporal works of mercy, which are infinitely greater." His ministry, he told the reporters, was the most important thing he had ever done. In my recent commencement address at Wheaton College, I told graduates that if they really aspired to lead good lives, they would find heroes to model themselves after. Well, that's not easy these days. But here's one hero I enthusiastically nominate. Bill Simon was a man who served without seeking personal acclaim. And that's why I'm doing this commentary: to honor a hero for our times, who exemplified what it means to live the Christian faith. And that was Bill's greatness. Believers, C. S. Lewis reminded us, never have to say goodbye. We will meet again. But in the meantime, Bill Simon, we will miss you.


Chuck Colson



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