One of the city’s most generous philanthropists, Harold C. Simmons, died Saturday evening at Baylor University medical Center at the age of 82. Simmons was ranked 40th on Forbes’ list of the 400 wealthiest Americans. Born in east Texas to two humble school teachers, he made a fortune by buying a drug store across from SMU (with $5000 in cash and a bank loan) that he later sold to Jack Eckerd in 1973 for $50 million in stock.
Harold Simmons gave hundreds of millions of dollars to many causes from conservative political campaigns to Planned Parenthood. He donated $200 million to Parkland Memorial Hospital and UT Southwestern Medical Center, including $41 million to UTSW for cancer and arthritis research. In 2005, he gave $50 million to establish a world-class cancer center at UTSW that draws thousands of patients from across the world. So humble was Simmons, former UTSW president Kern Wildenthal says he had to persuade Simmons to have the center bear his own name.
Wildenthal also said much of his generosity never made headlines, including UTSW’s work with an HIV/AIDS clinic in Africa.
I know Mr. Simmons was fond of animals. He and his wife, Annette, lived in Preston Hollow where he would often jog. On several occasions, he stopped to return our escape-artist dogs to our yard when he encountered them running. The 9700 square foot Simmons home was a fixture of beautiful holiday decor come Christmas. He counted many celebrities as friends, including fellow billionaire T. Boone Pickens, Jerry Jones, U2 singer Bono and Oprah Winfrey. He was a strong family man and in fact, one daughter, Lisa, bought a home on Hollow Way just to be close to her father.
On December 22, Dallas lost pediatrician Steven D. Crow, who had practiced in Dallas and Richardson for forty-plus years, ending his struggle with pancreatic cancer. He was one of the city’s most respected pediatricians and tended to thousands of youngsters with skill and humor.
Great men, and Dallas will miss them. Rest in peace. Our deepest condolences to their families and loved ones.