Harold Simmons Dies

Dallas Money Man and Montecito Resident Was 82

Monday, December 30, 2013
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He spread his millions far and wide, to good causes and bad, but Montecitans remember corporate raider Harold Simmons for his behavior during the water shortage of the 1980s.

While the rest of the South Coast was parched and under strict conservation rules, Simmons was willing to spend $25,500 in Montecito Water District surcharges so he could dump almost 10 million gallons in one year on his 23-acre estate. After much wrangling, he agreed to drill his own well.

Simmons, who died Saturday in Dallas at 82, parlayed a single drug store into a $10 billion fortune, becoming the nation’s 40th wealthiest person, according to Forbes. The part-time Montecito philanthropist donated an estimated $300 million over the years to worthy causes like schools and medical institutions, but he also helped bankroll the sleazy “Swift Boat” attack on presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004 and famously called President Obama “the most dangerous man in America” because of what Simmons considered his anti-business policies.

He gave tens of millions to Texas organizations, including charities, medical groups, and civic groups, and spent $25 million in the 2012 presidential election alone. He also donated to Santa Barbara nonprofits, and he and his wife, Annette, were well known in Montecito social circles.

Although a staunch conservative, Simmons also donated to such groups as Planned Parenthood and recently gave $600,000 to the Dallas Resource Center, which serves the city’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.

He had a mixed reputation in Texas. Republican politicians like Gov. Rick Perry loved him, and his donations. D Magazine in Dallas called him an “evil genius,” among other things, in a 2010 article criticizing him for a questionable deal involving burying hazardous waste in the desert. In 1998, two of his daughters accused him of misusing their trust fund as a personal ATM. After a nine-week trial, the jury found that he had violated his fiduciary duties. He paid each of the daughters $50 million as a settlement.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

No Picture? Here is what Mr. Simmons and his wife looked:

dou4now (anonymous profile)
December 31, 2013 at 5:17 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Unbelievable! A true gentleman has passed away. Mr. Simmons and his family have given more to Santa Barbara charities than Barney will ever make in his life, and he starts the article with negativity.
First off, what is a bad cause Barney? One you don't agree with? What causes do you donate to? Are all of your causes good? Sheesh.
I would argue that most Monticetans don't remember Mr. Simmons for his use of water. They remember him as a giver in the truest sense. The people who remember the water issue are the losers who needed to criticize the guy who has more. Sheesh.
How much is your water bill Barney? i would argue that the amount of your water bill would feed a lot of people in Biafra. Having been on the property a number of times I can tell you that the squirrels, hawks, fox and many other wild life seem to love it there.
Then it's 'evil genious', hazardous waste, misuse of trust funds, sleezy swift boat attack. Good lord, how many buzz words could possibly be in this article?
Guys like you Barney are why I don't pay much attention to mainstream news anymore. And believe me, you are mainstream.

ramoncramon (anonymous profile)
December 31, 2013 at 9:30 a.m. (Suggest removal)

During the drought he didn’t visit the estate but wanted a green lawn just in case. He hired water trucks to bring water to his property after the water district cut him off - the neighbors were NOT amused and that ended. The well worked during the drought but then went dry. A total scum bag.

SBwalker (anonymous profile)
January 2, 2014 at 4:05 p.m. (Suggest removal)

ramoncramon - thanks for for comment!

I grew up in Montecito, though, and the only thing I (or anyone I knew) knew about this guy was his water use. That lawn of his was more notorious than you think.

gannysesh (anonymous profile)
January 2, 2014 at 4:11 p.m. (Suggest removal)

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