Whether you are a seventh-grader looking for a research topic or someone interested in history, all are encouraged to visit the latest exhibit at the Benton Public Library.
Wednesday afternoon marked the opening of “Paul Simon: Compassion, Vision and Courage,” with guest speakers spanning several Southern Illinois University Carbondale departments.
Pamela Hackbark-Dean, director of SIUC’s Special Collections Research Center, welcomed the standing-room only crowd.
“The first shipment of materials to SIUC, with materials from Paul Simon’s 1988 presidential campaign, came in 1989,” she said. “However, the bulk of the materials arrived in 1997 following Simon’s retirement from the US Senate. Additional material came in 2003-2009 from the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute at SIUC. The collection includes more than 1,200 linear feet of manuscripts, photographs, audio and video recordings, scrapbooks, Simon’s personal library and numerous awards, plaques, pieces of art, and other memorabilia the senator received.”
Institute director David Yepsen said he was reminded of Simon’s work while watching Gov. Pat Quinn’s State of the State address.
“This state is in an ethical mess,” Yepsen said. “His (Paul Simon’s” papers and his teachings will bring us out of this mess. Gov. Quinn talked about Simon in the State of the State address a couple of hours ago.”
Hackbark-Dean said the Simon papers provide significant documentation of the broad spectrum of political activities of modern Illinois. “Topics of special interest covered in the papers relate to Simon’s legislative goals and accomplishments and work he did on behalf of his Illinois constituents,” she said. “The list is endless and includes the balanced budget amendment, coal and energy resources, water for the world and the poor, direct student loans, hate crimes legislation, health care reform, literacy legislation, the missing children’s act,
Shawnee National Forest and transportation issues just to name a few.
Simon’s daughter Sheila recognized a member of the audience, Floyd Hale, for his work with Simon during the 1988 presidential campaign.
“Dad was compared to Abraham Lincoln during the 1988 campaign in an editorial that ran in the Des Moines (Iowa) Register,” she said.
“After that, we often heard that ‘finally, someone saw the connection.'”
Simon said some were skeptical at her father’s run for office.
“He didn’t have money,” she said. “My grandfather was a Lutheran minister so Dad did not have any financial backing. He had two other strikes against him-he was born in Oregon and was a college dropout. That’s not exactly presidential material, but he passionately believed in what he wanted to do.”
Sheila Simon developed and supervised SIUC School of Law’s Domestic Violence Clinic. She has taught family law, is an author, served on the board of directors of the Women’s Center and also served as a member of the Carbondale City Council. Simon’s accomplishments also include being band member of Loose Gravel.
Page 2 of 2 - She and her husband Perry Knop have two daughters Reilly and Brennan. Simon recalled a photo of Reilly at a young age and said people commented about how much she looked like Paul Simon.
Simon jokingly said she thought her daughter looked more like her uncle, Art.
Kiosks pertaining to Paul Simon’s work will be on display in the Benton Public Library until the end of the month. The library is located at 502 South Main Street in Benton.
For more information on Simon’s papers, call 618-453-2516 or e-mail email@example.com.