Dallas billionaire and heavyweight GOP political donor Harold Simmons, who has given millions of dollars to Republican candidates, including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, has died. He was 82.
Simmons, born to two school teachers in East Texas, became one of the richest men in the country with interests ranging from energy to chemicals. A spokesman for Simmons, Chuck McDonald, says Simmons died Saturday in Dallas. He says he does not know the cause of death.
Simmons' wife, Annette Simmons, tells The Dallas Morning News her husband died at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas.
Perry called Simmons "a true Texas giant" who rose from humble beginnings.
Over the years, Simmons has donated tens of millions of dollars, including to charities, education groups and a Dallas medical center.
Simmons, along with Texas businessman Bob Perry
, were among the last of an era of GOP megadonors. Perry died earlier this year at age 80.
While the overwhelming amount of Simmons' donations were to Republican candidates and conservative causes, he recently donated to Planned Parenthood and to a Dallas LGBT center.
The Center for Public Integrity
ranked him the second highest donor in the 2011-12 election cycle, giving almost $31 million along with his wife. They also gave to super PACS supporting Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, Politico reports
He started his business career with a single drug store that he developed into a chain before selling it to Eckerd. His net worth at the time of his death was $10 billion, according to Forbes, which ranked him the 40th richest person in America.
Simmons also saw his share of trouble. He was fined $19,800 for contributing above the then-federal limit of $25,000 per person. And in the mid-1990s he almost lost his fortune when his daughters sued him over a trust he had established and named himself the sole trustee.
In 2010, D magazine reported
that a subsidiary of his company, Contran, had multiple lawsuits filed over environmental practices.
"Harold Simmons was one of my best friends, and it’s never easy to say goodbye to close friends," businessman T. Boone Pickens told The Dallas Morning News
. "Harold accomplished so much in his life. He was a passionate person — passionate about his family, his business, philanthropy and politics."
"Harold Simmons was a true Texas giant, rising from humble beginnings and seizing the limitless opportunity for success we so deeply cherish in our great state," Texas Gov. Rick Perry said.
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