Former leader could 'find a way'

Norman L. Simowitz has been credited with clearing the way for a fairer election system in Richmond County. He died Saturday.

Norman L. Simowitz, credited by a friend with clearing the way for a fairer election system in Richmond County, died Saturday.


Simowitz, 77, was an Augusta native who served on the county commission for eight years and who was voted chairman several years.

Bob Beckham said Monday that it was because of Simowitz's sense of fair play and leadership that the law was passed to create a board of elections with equal representation by Republicans and Democrats. Simowitz was a Democrat.

For years, Iree Pope was in charge of elections, Beckham explained. She refused to appoint any poll workers whose names were presented by the county's Republican Party.

When Simowitz insisted she had to, Pope said she would resign first.

Simowitz demanded her resignation letter and took it to Atlanta, Beckham said. That gave him the necessary third vote from the local delegation, from a Democrat, to get the bill passed.

"Norman Simowitz made that happen through his leadership. He had lots of guts. He wasn't afraid of anything," Beckham said.

Bernie Silverstein and Simowitz grew up together. His lifelong friend was a successful insurance salesman and a good golfer.

"Norman had a good heart and he liked helping people," Silverstein said. "And he was a hard worker."

Bill Sams, who served in the state House while Simowitz was commission chairman, remembers how determined Simowitz was to attend Sams' first big event in Atlanta after winning office.

There was a terrible storm, but Simowitz didn't let that stop him, Sams said. He let out most of the air in his tires and made the trip.

"He could always find a way," Sams said. "It was a good relationship that I had with him, although we were on opposite sides of the aisle, him being a Democrat and me being a Republican."

A graveside service for Simowitz was held Monday at Westover Memorial Park.