Tuesday, July 29, 2008


The "Klein Confirms Resignation" item incorrectly identified John M. Simpson as Robert Simpson.

This is not the first time I have had made that mistake. The reasons go back to the early 1970s when I covered the California State Capitol for United Press International. Ronald Reagan was then governor. But he was not the only fixture under the dome. An elderly gentleman by the name of Robert Simpson also prowled the hallowed halls of state government. He was upset about some quite legitimate issue involving him personally, and the state system that did it to him. Unfortunately, the details are lost to memory. Even Google can't turn them up.

Robert Simpson meandered about the Capitol with his walker on nearly a daily basis, carrying hand-lettered signs with red characters proclaiming his grievances. His most memorable slogan was: "Reagan is a bastard!" It came at a time when such a public denunciation was still shocking. From time to time, Simpson was arrested by state police or Reagan's security forces and carted off to the local hoosegow. Undeterred he would pop up the next day invigorated by the experience.

I interviewed Robert Simpson on several occasions. His dentures did not fit well, and his enunciation was poor. Sometimes, spittle would fly and land on those nearby. The stories I wrote about him did little to solve his problems with the state of California. He was banging futilely against the state's bureaucracy. However, he relished the fight and the attention.

A couple of years later, a new reporter arrived in the Sacramento UPI bureau. (I taught him everything he knows.) Appropriately, he re-discovered Simpson and wrote about him again, pushing those stories into national prominence. Mr. Simpson, as we called him, delighted once more in the attention but his disputes were never settled to his satisfaction.

My recollection is that Mr. Simpson's health, never the best, declined. Members of his family came from out of town to assist. His obituaries were fulsome and replete with fond references to Mr. Simpson's good humor, despite his belief that he was never treated fairly by the state of California and the governor who portrayed so many amiable characters on the silver screen.

And that is why my fingers – to this day -- sometimes type in Robert Simpson's name instead that of John M. Simpson.

1 comment:

  1. The following comment came in from Don Thornton, who asked us to post it. Thornton is the UPI reporter who also wrote about Mr. Simpson. Thornton said, "I make the guy famous and then, years later, your petty jealousies surface. Good item tho -- I remember him well."


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