Billy Graham Center

Interviews with William Leonard Simmer - Collection 443

[Note: What follows is a description of the documents in this collection which are available for use at BGC Archives in Wheaton, Illinois, USA. The actual documents are not, in most cases, available online, only this description of them. Nor are they available for sale or rent. Some or all of this collection can be borrowed through interlibrary loan. ]

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Table of Contents

Brief Description of This Collection

Title Page and Restrictions

Biography of William Leonard Simmer

An Essay on the Contents of the Collection (Scope and Content)

List of Audio Tapes in This Collection

Brief Description.
An oral history interview with Simmer in which he discusses his boyhood, years in the Air Force, conversion, education at Washington Bible College, and the development of Good News Jail and Prison Ministry. He also talks about Carl Henry, Grady Wilson, and the BGEA 1960 Washington, DC, Crusade.
Vol: 3 Reels of Audio Tape

Collection 443
[May 10, 2017]
Simmer, William Leonard; 1929-2015
Interview; 1991

3 Reels of Audio Tape

Restrictions: None.


Birth Date: October 2, 1928

Birthplace: Ottumwa, Iowa; grew up in Des Moines, Iowa

Death Date: February 22, 2015 in Forest, Virginia

Parents: Alfred and Florence Robbins Simmer
Siblings: Stan, Larry, Roger, Wanda
Marital status: Married to Helen Mylem (sp?)
Children: Cathy, Charlotte, William

Conversion: 1953 in Virginia

Ordination: 1963

Denominational affiliation: Baptist

1959-1963 Washington Bible College
Bible correspondence courses especially for prisoners
1970-1971 Developed graduate level course in prison chaplaincy

1946-1952 Air Force: Air Traffic Supervisor
1952-1954 Manager of a dime store
1954-1955 Manager of another dime store
1953-1955 Sold televisions
1956-1959 Home improvement, insurance, real estate in Boston, MA
1961-1983 Founder and President of Good News Mission
1974-1976 Executive Director, National Jail Association
1983- President Emeritus of Good News Jail and Prison Ministries
President, International College, Honolulu, Hawaii

Scope and Content

William Leonard Simmer was interviewed by Robert Shuster on June 21, 1991. The events described in the interview cover the time period 1930s to 1991.

T1 (70 minutes). Childhood in Des Moines, family, ambitions, heroes, lack of church involvement; joined the United States Air Force in 1946, training, learned to fly as cover for special activities; met wife when he taught flight attendants, marriage to Helen Mylem (sp?), moved to Virginia and attended Ringgold Baptist Church, where he accepted Christ in 1953; effects of conversion; the move to Boston, Massachusetts; owned three businesses there; call to the ministry; impact of the gospel, especially the book of Romans; first sermon and first convert during student days at Washington Bible College; found ethics lacking in both ministers and Christian lay persons

T2 (70 minutes). Continuation on the importance of ethics; lack of commitment for prison ministries; influence of Oswald J. Smith; need for world view as a Christian; started prison ministry in Fairfax County, Virginia; influence of courses and professors at Washington (DC) Bible College, as well as such people as Frank Gaebelein, Carl Henry, W. A. Criswell; circumstances surrounding beginning of work in Fairfax Prison; recruited other students to help in prisons; began Good News Mission; first impressions of prisons; trained prisoners to catalog books and began libraries; began first work-release program; counseling; developed Bible study courses; one-on-one discipling; discipling of Harry Green, now president of Good News; changes in prisoners since work first started; social changes; stories of conversions, Christian workers, and law enforcement people

T3 (65 minutes). Incorporation of Good News, the Board of Trustees; goals of organization, fund raising; rehabilitation; stories about different approaches to prisoners; desired qualities of chaplains; expansion of Good News Mission into surrounding areas, Hawaii; work with women's prison; difference between county jails and federal prisons; crisis intervention and counseling; reasons for work-release programs; half-way houses; Christian church groups involved in prison ministry; description of Grady Wilson; participation as counselor in the 1960 Washington, DC, Billy Graham Crusade.


The materials in this collection were given to the Graham Center Archives by William Simmer in June 1991.

Accession 91-56
April 14, 1997
Janyce H. Nasgowitz

Accession 91-56
Type of Material: Audio Tapes

The following items are filed in the AUDIO TAPE FILE:

T1 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, one side only, approx. 70 minutes. Interview of William Leonard Simmer by Robert Shuster on June 21, 1991, at the offices of the Archives of the Billy Graham Center.

T2 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, one side only, approx. 70 minutes. Interview of William Leonard Simmer by Robert Shuster on June 21, 1991, at the offices of the Archives of the Billy Graham Center.

T3 - Reel-to-reel, 3-3/4 ips, one side only, approx. 65 minutes. Interview of William Leonard Simmer by Robert Shuster on June 21, 1991, at the offices of the Archives of the Billy Graham Center.

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Last Revised: 2/17/00
Expiration: indefinite