From the farm to the trustee table: Hays CISD remembers a district pioneer

Editor’s note – Over the past week, the Hays CISD community has mourned the loss of Delvin John “Red” Simon, who passed away at the age of 91 at his home. Simon, who was the owner of Red Simon Ford in San Marcos for many years, is remembered as an integral cog in creating what today is Hays CISD. Below is a piece written by Jim Cullen in 2009 that is mounted at the school that was named for him – Simon Middle School. 

By Jim Cullen

When Delvin John “Red” Simon was born to his parents, Hugo and Paula Simon, on September 24, 1925, there was no way the Hemphill farming couple could predict that their sixth and last child would one day make the mark he eventually did on his hometown.

His record of service to public schools in this area, though, speaks for itself.

A 17-year member of first the Kyle Independent School District, then the Hays Consolidated Independent School District, Red Simon led both boards, including time as Hays CISD’s first board president.

As three towns’ school districts merged in 1967, two of them (Kyle and Buda) longtime bitter rivals, it was a time of local political uncertainty. Lesser men with smaller agendas might not have enjoyed the success that this newly-formed district did. But Simon and his board had only the common interest of local students in mind and more than 40 years later, their successes are evident.

From the pasture to the highway

As did most families on the prairie east of Kyle, the Hugo Simon family grew cotton and corn and managed cattle, sheep, goats, and hogs.

Red admitted in later life that he expected to do some farming, “but there would have to be something else.”

The family farm, located just a half mile north of today’s Simon Middle School, gave every indication of one day claiming a a lion’s share of Red’s attention. But fate had other other plans for this native son.

Always willing to chuckle while telling a story on himself, he reminisces of the day when he tried to play hooky. Starting school in 1931 – his five older brothers and sisters had all attended the just-closed Hemphill School – Simon had to wait for the Kyle school bus out at a corner of today’s FM 150.

“One day,” he recalls, as if it was yesterday, “I decided I wasn’t going to catch that bus.”

Hiding in a rise of land as the bus arrived, he waited until it went on without him, then strolled back to the family farm. As he walked in, his father asked him what was going on and Red told him “I missed the bus.” Hugo Simon quickly made note of the fact that the bus driver would not have stopped and blown the horn as many times as it did if Red had been trying to catch it and a hackberry switch soon helped him make the point.

“If my father could be here to see this today, he would not believe it,” Red said in scanning the just-completed D. J. Simon Middle School campus.

As with all of us, Red’s life had many eventful twists and turns, including his mother’s death – and the family’s move to a ranch west of Kyle when Simon was only 11.

He got his lifelong nickname from a Kyle High School Vocational Ag teacher A. R. “Archie” Hatcher. The popular teacher took his students on many field trips and he’d always stop along the way and let the students get ice cream and sodas.

“The rest of you, get what you want,” he said one day at such a stop, calling attention to auburn-haired Delvin,“but Little Red here, he’s going to have red soda and strawberry ice cream…don’t let him have anything else.”

“And every student called me ‘Red’ from then on,” Simon said.

Red graduated from Kyle High School in 1942, saw brief stateside military service during World War II, and entered the auto business in 1946, serving as a parts helper in the San Marcos Ford dealership of Tom Sumners. His first assignment was sweeping out the department.

Two years later, on January 31, 1948, at midnight, Red and Louise Dupree were married by Brother John McKay of the Kyle United Methodist Church. They made their home in Kyle and they had two sons, Delvin Russell and John Reagan.

Red became a salesman for Jack Hughes, his dealership’s new owner in 1950, and after 15 years in the position, he bought a percentage of the dealership. In 1967, Simon and A.W. Gregg. Sr. teamed to buy out Hughes. In 1974, Simon bought full control of his auto dealership, setting his professional course for the next 35 years.

Red Simon as board president among other family photos. (photo by David White)

Finding a calling in education

First appointed to the Kyle ISD board to fill an unexpired vacancy in 1955, Red’s commitment to the district was quickly embraced by voters, beginning a regular pattern of re-election. The eventual consolidation of Kyle with Buda and Wimberley found Simon serving as Kyle’s board president.

Following the pre-planned resignations of all the all but seven now-HCISD trustees, he was unanimously elected to lead the new district’s board. He served as the Hays CISD board president until 1972, when he chose not to run for re-election.

“I have a huge amount of respect for Red. He’s not a chest-pounder or an egotist, but he does have a lot of pride, said Ralph Pfluger, current Hays CISD board trustee who, along with Simon, made up the first district board.

Looking back on his 1967 vote for the new board’s president, Pfluger said “ We knew he was just a fine, fine person. He’d done so much,  had such a sense of duty to the schools—and such a sense of humor…We all respected him as a successful businessman. He was well-suited for the job.”

Forty-two years later Hays CISD has grown into a booming, forward-looking school district that hasn’t forgotten its past. Michelle Chae opens Simon Middle School as principal with obvious awareness of the campus namesake’s place in local public education.

“It is truly an honor to carry on the legacy of dedication to all students that Mr. Simon started and fought for during his leadership. The Simon name is synonymous with success, which is a tradition we are proud to continue,” Chae says – with the conviction shared by all of those in this new learning community.

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