Graduated from U. of texas 1952; became bank examiner. Invested $5,000 in local Dallas drugstore; sold chain to Eckerd Corp. for $50 million. Built publicly traded holding company Valhi; stock down 45% since June. Stake in Titanium Metals has lost $1.2 billion since January. Recently donated millions to U. of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
His parents were teachers in the rural East Texas town. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin and built a chain of 100 drugstores across the state.
He sold the stores and began to invest in companies. He made much of his fortune from running the Contran Corporation, a holding company that owns stakes in companies that produce chemicals and computer support systems, among others.
In 2012, he contributed millions of dollars to American Crossroads, a super PAC co-founded by Karl Rove. His company also contributed to the presidential campaign of Gov. Rick Perry of Texas.
Mr. Simmons and his wife, Annette, have been among the largest donors to charities in Dallas, including the Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, the AT&T Performing Arts Center, the Dallas Zoo, and Southern Methodist University.
More recently, his foundation made contributions that were surprising for someone with his political views. It gave $600,000 to Planned Parenthood and its North Texas affiliate in 2011 and $600,000 this year to the Resource Center, a group that supports the gay community and those affected by H.I.V., The Dallas Morning News reported.
In the late 1990s, Mr. Simmons endured a messy legal dispute with two older daughters from previous marriages. After the daughters sued to challenge his control of trusts Mr. Simmons had established, he struck back in unusually personal terms, saying that one daughter had problems with drug addiction and both had trouble managing money.