Raymond Simon, Mayor Richard M. Daley’s corporation counsel and former Chicago Park District board president, dies – Chicago Tribune newstrendslive

Raymond Simon was the city of Chicago’s deputy mayor and corporation counsel under Mayor Richard J. Daley before launching his own private law practice.

The well-connected Simon served as the president of the Chicago Park District’s board and as counsel to the Cook County Democratic Party. He also built a reputation for supporting numerous foundations and institutions, including his alma maters, Loyola University Chicago and Saint Ignatius College Prep.

“He was one of the most exceptional people I’ve ever known,” said former Illinois Attorney General Neil Hartigan, a longtime friend and colleague. “He was a person of absolute integrity and he was brilliant intellectually.”

Raymond Simon built a reputation for supporting numerous foundations and institutions, including his alma maters, Loyola University Chicago and Saint Ignatius College Prep.

Simon, 90, died of coronary artery disease on Jan. 6 at his home in the North Side Edgewater neighborhood, said his son Kevin.

Born in Chicago, Simon grew up in the South Side Back of the Yards neighborhood and attended St. Anthony of Padua Elementary School and Saint Ignatius College Prep. He received a bachelor’s degree from Loyola University Chicago and a law degree from Loyola’s law school in 1956.

After law school, Simon joined the city of Chicago’s legal department. In 1964, he was promoted from administrative assistant to administrative officer and also was named deputy mayor.

That same year, Simon joined Daley on a visit to Washington to meet with President Lyndon B. Johnson while the mayor was in town to testify in support of Johnson’s Great Society programs. They dined at the White House with the president and first lady Lady Bird Johnson.

Simon was named Chicago’s corporation counsel in 1965. In 1969, Simon resigned to start a law firm with Daley’s son, future Mayor Richard M. Daley. Richard J. Daley told reporters at the time that Simon’s career “demonstrates that government utilizes and develops talents of youth.”

Simon’s law practice expanded with hires including Jack George and future Cook County Commissioner Larry Suffredin. Clients included Peoples Gas, Commonwealth Edison, architect Helmut Jahn, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Field Museum of Natural History, Adler Planetarium, Shedd Aquarium and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District.

Simon led a number of successful class-action lawsuits, including one against United Airlines and other air carriers serving O’Hare International Airport, challenging the imposition of a jet fuel tax surcharge on passengers’ tickets. He also prevailed in a suit against almost all major auto insurance companies for imposing midterm premiums on policyholders whose children became licensed drivers during an existing insurance policy term.

“Ray was a remarkable person,” said Suffredin, who practiced law with him for 11 years. “He taught me the two most important things as a lawyer were your judgment and your integrity. He had probably the best judgment I’d ever seen in sizing up an issue and being able to get a legal solution in a way that was beneficial to our client.”

In 1979, Mayor Jane Byrne appointed Simon to the board of the Chicago Park District, and the following year he became the board’s president. Simon drew praise for opening the decision-making process at the district to community involvement. That included establishing a committee system and providing public hearings for the board, which had previously had a history of deciding controversial issues behind closed doors.

Simon also helped to negotiate a lease renewal at Soldier Field for the Chicago Bears.

“That was an assignment that he just relished,” Suffredin said of Simon’s time as Park District Board president. “He saw that as an opportunity to extend the quality of the parks throughout the city.”

Simon resigned under pressure from the Park District’s board in May 1982, after Byrne engineered the removal of then-Cook County Board President George Dunne as Cook County Democratic chairman. Byrne asked Simon for his resignation because of his close ties with Dunne and Richard M. Daley.

Simon served the Solovy Commission, which helped to clean up the Cook County justice system after the Operation Greylord scandal.

In 2005, Simon stepped down from active law practice, but he remained of counsel to his law firm for the rest of his life.

In the 1970s, he was asked to help out at Saint Ignatius as the school dealt with low enrollment and financial instability. Simon focused on fundraising, and he soon joined the school’s board as one of its first lay members. He played a role in Saint Ignatius’ decision to admit girls in 1979.

“Saint Ignatius changed the trajectory of my dad’s life, and he never forgot it,” his son said. “My dad worked to stabilize Saint Ignatius because he wanted it to be available to others — including all of his children, each of whom attended, and numerous grandchildren.”

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Simon sat on Loyola University Chicago’s board of trustees for 10 years. His wife’s father, Frank Cassaretto, had taught chemistry there, and Simon established a scholarship for Loyola chemistry students in the names of Cassaretto and his wife, Agnes.

Beyond education, Simon served on the boards of the Brach Foundation and the Polk Brothers Foundation.

“He had such strong values,” Hartigan said. “His priorities were in the right place.”

In addition to his son, Simon is survived by his wife of more than 66 years, Mary; six other sons, Matthew, Mark, John, Gregory, David and Daniel; a daughter, Maria; and 23 grandchildren.

Services were held.

Goldsborough is a freelance reporter.

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