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Roy W. Simmons

Published: Friday, May 12 2006 12:00 a.m. MDT

Given his start in life, Roy W. Simmons easily could have gone astray. He was adopted shortly after his birth, on Jan. 24, 1916, in Portland, Ore. His adoptive mother died when Simmons was eight years old and his adoptive father died shortly thereafter. Simmons was reared by a friend of the family in Salt Lake City.

Early on, Simmons demonstrated a remarkable work ethic. Prior to his ninth birthday, he earned money delivering flowers and working at a gasoline station. By age 13, he sold produce from a wagon he pulled from house to house. He had 37 jobs by the time he entered high school, according to a 1993 Deseret Morning News account when Simmons received the Distinguished Citizen Award by the Great Salt Lake Council, Boy Scouts of America.

From very humble beginnings, he went on to become the chairman and chief executive officer of Zion Bancorp, which is one of the largest banking concerns nationwide. That venture began in 1955, when Simmons and his business partners organized Keystone Insurance and Investment Co. It acquired a controlling interest in Zions First National Bank, which was then owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which also owns this newspaper. Keystone later became Zions Bancorp.

Simmons served as CEO of Zions Bancorp and Zions First National Bank from 1964 until 1990. He became an emeritus director upon his retirement as chairman in 2002.

On the occasion of his death at age 90, it is important not to view Simmons simply as a banker. He was a family man, married to his college sweetheart, Elizabeth "Tibby" Ellison, for more than 67 years. The couple had six children.

A graduate of South High School, Simmons attended the University of Utah from 1934-37, where he was president of the freshman class. After college, Simmons worked as an insurance salesman. In 1940, he launched his banking career as a teller at the First National Bank in Layton.

Simmons' career also included service the state Commissioner of Financial Institutions and as chairman of the state Liquor Control Commission. He also served on the Utah State Board of Regents and was a founding member of the University of Utah's Board of Trustees. He received honorary degrees from the U., Weber State University and Southern Utah University.

Simmons served on numerous corporate boards in Utah and contributed generously to many community organizations and causes. According to his obituary, he took particular joy in working with his wife on the restoration of historic buildings and providing scholarships to single mothers.

From humble beginnings came an impressive legacy.

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