criticized Kent State deployment
Saturday, January 10, 2009
Plain Dealer Reporter
The Rev. John Simons, who died Dec. 30, denounced his unit's fatal
deployment at Kent State University in 1970.
The military policeman turned chaplain used the pulpit, the witness
box and national television to criticize the politics that caused his
confused, frightened comrades in the Ohio National Guard to leave four dead.
A week after the shooting, Simons preached, "Some people wanted it to
end that way: the radicals on the left, who want to turn this tragedy
to their own use, and reactionaries on the right, who want to do away
with the Bill of Rights to save the flag. A pox on both houses."
Simons' son Andy of Avon Lake says his father was denied promotion
for his words and quit the Guard. But he returned as statewide
chaplain in 1987 for a different administration.
Simons was a longtime pastor of St. Philip the Apostle Episcopal
Church of Cleveland and Grace Episcopal Church of Willoughby.
He died at his home in Pittsboro, N.C., after several years of failing health.
Simons was born in Melrose, Mass., and raised in the Washington,
D.C., area. After World War II, he met Nancy Pyle at college classes
in Munich, where both of their fathers were serving in the military.
The couple married in 1954.
A post-war visit to Auschwitz inspired Simons' eventual ministry. Two
brothers and a brother-in-law would also be Episcopal ministers.
Simons enlisted in the U.S. Army and spent two years in Germany as a
military policeman. Back in the United States, he spent five years as
He got a bachelor's degree at Drury College, Springfield, Mo., and a
divinity degree at Kenyon College.
He became pastor of St. Philip in 1959 and Grace in 1970. He helped
St. Philip open an educational wing and a day-care center. He helped
Grace grow several-fold and serve the community through programs such
as a food bank and a day camp.
On the side, Simons was chaplain to the Guard's 107th Cavalry in
Cleveland. He worked the Hough riots and a truckers strike.
Soon after the KSU shootings, he called for indictments against some
of his fellow guardsmen. But he backed down in 1974, when a federal
grand jury investigated.
"I'm not quite as lividly angry as I used to get," he said. "There
was no conspiracy."
Simons moved to Columbus in 1987 to be the Guard's top chaplain and
pastor of Trinity Episcopal. He left the Guard in 1991 as a colonel.
Simons spent a year at Pershore Abbey, England, then led churches in
North Carolina until his death.
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