Simeon Career Academy was named after teacher, administrator and specialist in Vocational Education, Neal Ferdinand Simeon. Mr. Simeon was born in Chicago, Illinois on May 30, 1916 and was of Creole descent. His family was from New Orleans; his father a cigar maker. He had two sisters and three brothers; Lillian, Ethel, Omer, Albert and Leo. Neal F. Simeon married Helen and to this union was born daughter Sharon A. Simeon.
Mr. Simeon graduated from Doolittle Elementary School and went on to graduate from Wendell Phillips High School in 1934 where he was football captain and valedictorian.
Mr. Simeon won an academic scholarship to Northwestern University, but instead enrolled at the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) where he starred in track and boxing. While an undergrad, he was the IIT light heavyweight boxing champion and competed in the Golden Gloves. He received a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from IIT in 1938 and was elected to Pi Tau Sigma, an honorary Mechanical Engineering fraternity.
Following graduation, he briefly played semi-pro football and worked in the machine tool and printing supply industries where he was a tool designer. He was also a licensed airplane pilot and was in one of the first groups to learn flying under a federal government program. He held a ground instructor’s license and taught aviation mechanics at Tuskegee [Ala.] Institute.
His Creole Heritage
Courtesy of daughter Sharon A. Simeon
to the Simeon Alumni Association
Neal F. Simeon was of Creole descent.
His family was from New Orleans, and his father was a cigar maker. He had two sisters and three brothers: Lillian, Ethel, Omer, Albert and Leo. They are all deceased.
Neal F. Simeon’s oldest brother, Omer,
was an accomplished musician. He played the clarinet with the legendary Jelly Roll Morton and other noteworthy bands of his era. Every now and then you can hear one of their recordings on the Public Radio Stations or NPR.
In 1945 he entered the Navy and served two years as a seaman. While in the Navy, he was a Golden Gloves boxer. He received his Masters in Education from Northwestern University in 1950.
His career as an educator began when he became a teacher at Wendell Phillips Evening High School. A short time later, he became a full time machine shop teacher at Dunbar Vocational High School where he successively served as Administrator, Placement Counselor, Assistant Principal, and as Director of Special Projects in Vocational Education. His last position was as Director of Vocational Education and Guidance Centers for the Chicago Board of Education. He was then the highest paid African American employee at the Board.
In 1962, Neal F. Simeon was called upon by President Kennedy to represent the United States at the International Trade Fair in Lagos, Nigeria. He was given a special leave of absence to supervise the educational and training aspects of the United States Exhibit of New Tools, New Skills, and New Markets.
Mr. Simeon’s interest in the vocational training of Chicago’s youth was evident to all who observed his tireless devotion to his work. He was vitally concerned with the special problems in the area of vocational education. He was eminently qualified to assume the directorship of such a dynamic program of preparing the city’s youth for the forthcoming manpower requirements of our changing economy.
At the age of 46, Neal F. Simeon died on August 28, 1963 at Wesley Memorial hospital in Chicago, Illinois.
and his family moved from New Orleans to Chicago in 1914 and like so many other great clarinet players, he took lessons from Lorenzo Tio Jr. who had also relocated to Chicago. He played in his brother Al Simeon's Hot Six , then worked with Charlie Elgar's Creole Orchestra from 1923 to 1927.
Simeon recorded frequently with Jelly Roll Morton and was featured on "Black Bottom Stomp." He toured with King Oliver's Dixie Syncopators in 1927 and then rejoined Elgar's Orchestra. He went to New York in 1928 and worked briefly with Luis Russell and Jelly Roll Morton, but he returned to Chicago later that year to play with Erskine Tate.
In 1931 he joined the Earl Hines Orchestra and stayed with him until 1941. He became a member of Jimmie Lunceford's orchestra in 1942 and was with them until 1950. Simeon recorded some Dixieland records with Kid Ory's Creole Orchestra in 1944 and 1945. He spent most of his later years with Wilbur de Paris, recording prolifically with that band.
Information gathered by the Simeon Alumni Association from the SCA archives, Sharon A. Simeon and a 1963 Chicago Tribune Newspaper article