Kern Wildenthal

President, Children's Medical Center Foundation

Reflecting on the Life and Contributions of Harold C. Simmons16 January 2014
Photo Credit: Forbes

Photo Credit: Forbes


It was an honor to be able to eulogize Harold Simmons at his memorial service. He was a close personal friend, and nobody could have been a more reliable friend.

Harold was a great business innovator, a great philanthropist, and a great man. He often seemed to embody contradictions: A decisive, strong leader, who was shy and usually preferred to be out of the limelight. A man who was emotionally tough, and able to withstand personal tragedies and shrug off unwarranted personal assaults, who also would identify with and become emotionally tender at the plight of those less fortunate. A man who was comfortable at 5-star restaurants dining with celebrities and business and governmental leaders, whose favorite place out, every week, was Luby’s Cafeteria with his brother Glenn.

The traits that characterize this complex, admirable man were bound together by the attributes that were always constant in Harold: his steadfastness and his loyalty. His word was his bond. This “man of few words” meant, and stood by, every word he spoke.

Harold found fulfillment in his life with his beloved wife, Annette. They and their family have been responsible for transformational changes in medical research, education, and social services in Dallas and beyond. The world lost a truly great man in Harold, but his legacy will forever remind us that with great power and wealth comes responsibility to give back to those who need it most.

Biography and Tribute printed in the Dallas Morning News

Dallas entrepreneur and philanthropist, Harold Clark Simmons, 82, passed away peacefully on December 28, 2013, surrounded by his wife and children. 

Harold Simmons was a remarkable, generous, and gifted man who exemplified the American Dream. As one of three sons, Harold was born May 13, 1931 to strong rural Texas school teachers, Reuben Leon and Fairess Clark. He gave his life to Jesus in a small Baptist church at the age of 12, and there in those surroundings learned Christian values, honesty, discipline and healthy respect for education and hard work. At the age of 16, Harold and his family moved from Golden, Texas, to a community near Austin where he enrolled at the University of Texas and was a member of the Southwest Conference championship basketball team of 1951. He then earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees and was awarded a Phi Beta Kappa key.

Mr. Simmons’ first job was as an investigator for the U.S. Civil Service Commission, then as an Assistant Bank Examiner at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and an assistant loan officer at Republic National Bank. After five years, he decided he would rather work for himself. So at age 29, Harold became an entrepreneur when he purchased a small drugstore near SMU in Dallas. In 1966, he began to acquire other drugstores including buying Williams Drug Co., Ward’s Cut-Rate Drug Stores and Madigan-Dugan. He ultimately built a chain of 100 drugstores that he sold in 1973 for $50 million to Eckerd Corp. for stock.

 Mr. Simmons was founder, chairman and CEO of Contran Corporation, a holding company that over the years held interests in a variety of industries, including chemicals, titanium metals, steel, component products, hazardous and low level radioactive disposal, refined sugar, timber and forest products, fast food restaurants, oil and gas services, real estate and others. The combination of value investing philosophy and conservative financial discipline, combined to create a diversified portfolio that has grown substantially over the course of his career. The portfolio of investments have included controlling interests in Valhi, Inc., Kronos Worldwide, Inc., Titanium Metals Corporation, CompX International Inc., Medford Corporation, Medite Corporation, Baroid Corp., Amalgamated Sugar Company, Sybra Inc., LLC Corporation and Keystone Consolidated Industries, Inc. In addition, Mr. Simmons served on the boards of Contran Corporation, Valhi, Inc., Kronos Worldwide, Inc., Titanium Metals Corporation, CompX International Inc., Medford Corporation, Medite Corporation, Baroid Corp., Amalgamated Sugar Company, Sybra, Inc., LLC Corporation, Keystone Consolidated Industries, Inc., and GAF Corporation. 

 Mr. Simmons was actively involved in philanthropy with his wife, Annette, and served on various honorary and executive boards including SMU’s Cox School of Business and Dedman College of Humanities and Science, The Parkland Foundation, The Kidney Foundation, UT Southwestern Medical School, The Crystal Charity Ball Advisory Board, the Dallas Heart Ball, the Ronald McDonald House of Dallas, The Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children Annual Treasure Street, The Human Rights Initiative of North Texas, and the Military Ball.

 Mr. Simmons also received several local awards for his unwavering support and involvement with Dallas-based charities, which included the Dallas Historical Society Philanthropy Award for Excellence in Community Service, The Annette G. Strauss Humanitarian Award, the Champ Award by The Dallas County Medical Society Alliance, the Dallas Distinguished Community Service Award, and the United Way – Alexis De Tocqueville Society Award. 

 Harold Simmons was a man of few words but giant actions. He once said, “Life has been good to me, and I want to be good to life.” This philosophy led to the establishment of The Harold Simmons Foundation in 1988, for which he served as chairman. The foundation focuses on education, healthcare, social welfare, civic improvement, and the arts and has generously provided funding for Baylor Healthcare System, UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, Children’s Medical Center, Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children, Buckner International, Operation Care, Habitat for Humanity, Council for Life, New Friends/New Life, Liberty Institute, Reconciliation Outreach, Interfaith Coalition, The AT&T Performing Arts Center, The Crystal Charity Ball, The Dallas Zoo, The Dallas Civic Opera, The Dallas Women’s Foundation, The Arboretum, Parkland Memorial Hospital, Legal Hospice of Texas, Uplift Education, Susan G. Komen Foundation, Center for Brain Health at UTD, Pickens Presbyterian COmmunities and Services Hospice, George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum, Young Americas, Westmont College, University of Texas, McDonald Observatory, Parkland Ambulatory Surgery Center, Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation, Kalispell Community Regional Medical Center Honoring Paul M. Bass Jr. and The Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa to name a few. Most recently a gift to Southern Methodist University provided an endowment for the university’s School of Education and Human Development and a new facility named the Annette Caldwell Simmons Building plus an additional gift providing a new facility to be named the Harold Clark Simmons Hall.

 Harold was a well-known and sometimes outspoken top GOP donor, friend to politicians and presidents, a proud Texan, and a patriot whose eyes would fill upon hearing The National Anthem. And, although he traveled a long way from his East Texas childhood days to become a successful business man, a champion tennis player, a jet pilot and later in life  passionate golfer, he always considered himself simply “The Golden Boy.” As author John Nance wrote, “Good people do finish first and the American dream can be won by decent men who care about others, regard their word as their bond and honesty as their responsibility, and who regard the wealth they may achieve as a God-given responsibility, not a jackpot.” Harold Simmons will be greatly missed by his family, his friends, his state and his country.

 Mr. Simmons is survived by his loving, gentle, resilient and faithful wife of 33 years, Annette Caldwell Simmons, his children Lisa Simmons and her son, Harrison Simmons Epstein, Serena Simmons Connelly and her husband Thomas and their daughters, Natalie and Nadia, Amy Fleck Simmons, Andy Fleck and his wife Kammy and their children Austin Fleck and Adrienne Fleck. He is also survived by a brother Douglas and was preceded in death by his parents and brother Glenn.

 A celebration of Harold Simmons’ life was held on Thursday, January 2, 2014 at Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas. Eulogists were Dr. Kern Wildenthal and Dr. R. Gerald Turner. 

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