John Y. Simon (1933-2008) Passes Away
Today I learned of sad news, first from a good friend, then from this article.
Since 1967 The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant has been a model of documentary editing. It certainly has been important to my work. I own all twenty-eight volumes, with two more just appearing now.
John Y. Simon headed the project that published those papers. He was an imposing presence, with a sharp and subtle wit (well, always sharp, and usually subtle). I first met him in 1985, when I visited Carbondale to look at some of the papers associated with the project and with Grant (as opposed to the files of documents to be published by the project–those were off limits). John and his wife Harriet hosted me at dinner, and if you’ve been to Carbondale (as Steve Woodworth can testify), that was a welcome relief from the prospect of fast food. John helped secure my first opportunity to review a book for the journal of the Association for Documentary Editing (called, appropriately enough, Documentary Editing), reviewed the manuscript of my first article for Civil War History prior to my submitting it, and on the whole was supportive of my early endeavors.
Over the past two decades John and I appeared at various conferences and institutes, including Gettysburg College’s Civil War Institute (2001) and at a meeting of the Police Chiefs of New Jersey (2007). At the latter meeting he was still recovering from the effects of an accident, but that did not dampen his wit or dim the twinkle in his eye as we were held hostage in a limo by a driver who had lost his way in downtown Trenton. He was unfailingly polite when we met. We also collaborated on several projects, most notably the American Experience series on Grant.
John enjoyed life a great deal, and one almost always found him funny, even if the barb was directed at you. He was blessed to be married to Harriet, who always looked out for his best interests. He had a deep interest in Grant and The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant remains an essential resource. Agree with him, disagree with him, engage him in give and take–he was a person, a force, with which I had to reckon, and I’ll miss him.