William E. Simon in front of the Alexander Hamilton statue at the U.S. Treasury
William Edward Simon, sixty-third Secretary of the United States Treasury, was born November 27, 1927, in Paterson, New Jersey. He was the son of Charles Simon, Jr., an insurance broker, and Eleanor Kearns Simon, and was the grandson of a French immigrant textile-dying manufacturer. Graduated from the Newark Academy in Livingston, New Jersey, in 1946, Simon spent the next two years in military service with the U.S. Army. During his tour of duty in Japan, Simon swam with the Army team in the Pacific Olympics. In 1948 he entered Lafayette College and received his Bachelor of Arts degree in Government and Law in 1952. While at Lafayette, Simon was a member of the Knights of the Round Table honor society and the Delta Kappa Epsilon social fraternity. In 1950 he married Carol Ann Girard, and they became the parents of two sons and five daughters.
Simon began his career in finance in 1952 with Union Securities, becoming an assistant vice-president and manager of the Municipal Trading Department three years later. In 1957 he joined Weeden and Company as vice-president, a post he held until he joined Salomon Brothers investment banking firm in 1964. Made senior partner in charge of the Government Bond and Municipal Bond Departments of Salomon Brothers in 1970, Simon also served as one of the seven partners on the firm's executive committee. During his years on Wall Street, Simon was active in the Investment Bankers Association of America (later the Securities Industry Association). He also founded and served as president of the Association of Primary Dealers in U.S. Government Securities and was national chairman of fund-raising for the U.S. Olympic Committee.
Named by President Richard Nixon as his choice for Deputy Secretary of the Treasury on December 6, 1972, Simon was sworn into office on February 2, 1973. As Deputy Secretary, Simon oversaw the day-to-day operations of the Treasury Department and directed the administration's program to restructure U.S. financial institutions. Appointed to chair the President's Oil Policy Committee within weeks of his arrival in Washington, Simon had responsibility for the oil import program and quickly became expert on the nation's escalating energy problems. At the height of the Arab oil embargo in December 1973, Nixon selected Simon to replace John Love as Administrator of the newly-created Federal Energy Office. As "energy czar," he instituted a mandatory fuel allocation program and was able to stem the rising tide of public hysteria (without resorting to gasoline rationing) until the embargo was lifted in spring 1974.
Simon continued to serve simultaneously as Deputy Secretary and head of the FEO until George Shultz's resignation as Treasury Secretary in April 1974. Nominated by President Nixon to succeed Shultz, Simon was sworn in as Secretary of the Treasury on May 8, 1974. When Gerald Ford assumed the presidency in August 1974, he asked Simon to continue in the post.
As Secretary of the Treasury, Simon headed a 125,000-person department, which collected the nation's taxes, paid its bills, managed its accounts, printed its currency, and minted its coins. He also had responsibility for various law enforcement agencies that were part of the Treasury, including the U.S. Customs Service, the U.S. Secret Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. In his capacity as chief financial officer of the United States and principal advisor to the President on economic affairs, Simon chaired or held membership in numerous financial, trade, and economic organizations. Foremost among these was the Economic Policy Board, which President Ford created in September 1974 with Simon at its helm, to advise him on all domestic and international economic policies. Simon also chaired the East West Foreign Trade Board and the Council on Wage and Price Stability, as well as serving as U.S. Governor of the International Monetary Fund, the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Inter- American Development Bank, and the Asian Development Bank. Simon's nearly three-year tenure in office saw the following developments: the 1974 recession and recovery; major tax reform initiatives, including the Tax Reduction Act of 1975; international agreements on a new monetary structure based on flexible exchange rates; passage of the Trade Act of 1974, liberalizing trade policy; the New York City fiscal crisis of 1975 and its settlement; and the reintroduction of the two-dollar bill.
When Simon left office at the end of the Ford administration in January 1977, there was speculation in the press that he might run for the governorship of New Jersey or even for the presidency of the United States. Simon, however, returned to business, serving first as advisor and consultant to such firms as Booz Allen & Hamilton, Inc. and Blyth Eastman Dillon & Co., Inc. Later he formed his own investment firm, the Wesray Corporation. In addition he wrote two books during this period, both of which became best-sellers: A Time for Truth (1978) and A Time for Action (1980). In 1987 he founded and became chairman of WSGP International, Inc.
Simon also lent his support to a myriad of organizations, causes, and philanthropies, including service as chairman of President Ronald Reagan's Productivity Commission, president of the John M. Olin Foundation, president of the Richard Nixon Presidential Archives Foundation, chairman of the U.S. Olympic Foundation Board of Trustees, and president of the United States Olympic Committee. His service to Lafayette College included membership on the Board of Trustees' Financial Policy Committee in the early 1970's, until his appointment as Deputy Secretary of the Treasury. Simon rejoined Lafayette's Board after his government service in 1977 to serve as a member of the Executive Committee and as chair of the Financial Policy Committee. He was the recipient of numerous honors and awards, among them honorary degrees from Lafayette College, Pepperdine University, Jacksonville University, Tel Aviv University, Manhattan College, and Rutgers University.
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