The Harold Simmons Foundation is the private grantmaking foundation of Harold C. Simmons (1931-2013), an investor whose holding company, Contran Corporation, owns 93 percent of Valhi, Inc., a publicly traded company whose divisions manufacture chemicals (most notably titanium oxide) and components for computers as well as buying and selling real estate. During his life, Simmons was a staunch supporter of the Republican Party; since shortly before his death, Simmons’s daughter Lisa K. Simmons has used her position as the foundation’s president to support liberal causes, especially abortion advocacy and gun control. 
During his lifetime, Harold Simmons and his third wife, Annette Simmons, were major donors to hospitals and universities in the Dallas area. The Chronicle of Philanthropy estimated that the Simmonses gave over $200 million to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas during his lifetime. His donations to medical and educational nonprofits were large enough that they made the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s Philanthropy 50 list of most generous Americans three times. 
The Harold Simmons Foundation has had one president, Simmons’s daughter, Lisa K. Simmons, since the foundation’s creation in 1988. In 2013, nine months before Harold C. Simmons’s death, the Dallas Morning News observed the foundation’s drift to the left.  The foundation now primarily supports Dallas-based nonprofits and national organizations that favor gun control and increased access to abortion.
Harold C. Simmons
Life and Business Career
Harold C. Simmons was born in Golden, Texas in 1931. “When I was growing up, I didn’t really know we were poor,” he told Fortune in 1989. “My parents always stressed, learning, achieving, and being the best you can be…I’ve always tried to do that.” 
Simmons began his career by investing $5,000 and borrowing $95,000 to buy the drugstore located across the street from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He then expanded his empire into a chain of nearly 100 drugstores, which he then sold and used the money to invest in a series of value-priced businesses which became quite profitable. 
Unions often opposed Simmons’s takeover attempts. In 1991 the AFL-CIO Executive Council announced its opposition to Simmons’s effort to take over Lockheed, calling Simmons a “notorious corporate raider” whose takeover would put “as stake..the jobs of some 25,000 members of the International Association of Machinists, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the International Union of Operating Engineers.”  Simmons’s bid to take control of Lockheed ultimately failed.
Political and Philanthropic Giving
Harold Simmons began giving money to Republicans in 1988. He was a major donor in the 2004 presidential campaign, when he gave $2 million to Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, an organization that claimed that presidential candidate John Kerry had exaggerated his accomplishments during the Vietnam War.  The left-leaning Center for Public Integrity calculated that Simmons donated nearly $31 million to candidates and Super PACs, including $23.5 million to American Crossroads, $2.3 million to Restore Our Future, $1.2 million to Red White and Blue Fund, $1.1 million to Winning Our Future, $1.1 million to the Texas Conservatives Fund, and $1 million to Make Us Great Again. 
In a 2013 Wall Street Journal interview, Simmons said he gave to Republican-associated Super PACs because “I’ve got the money, so I’m spending it for the good of the country,” He added that, in his opinion, “[then-President Barack] Obama is the most dangerous American alive [. . .] because he would completely destroy free enterprise in this country” and that his political donations countered the “unlimited amount from labor unions” backing Democrats. 
Simmons also gave money to right-of-center nonprofits. Longtime conservative activist Brent Bozell recalled that when forming the Media Research Center in 1986 he went to Simmons’s office asked Simmons to be on the board of the new organization. Simmons stated “OK, but only if I don’t have to go to any meetings.” Simmons served on the Media Research Center board for 27 years, including some time as chairman. 
Monica Langley reported in the Wall Street Journal in 2013 that Simmons “takes day trips every week to visit obscure libraries, churches, and museums around Texas. He arrives unannounced and typically turns over a big check or several hundred dollar bills.” She wrote that Simmons routinely gave $50 or $100 bills to panhandlers, with the businessman saying it was “not my business” if they spent the gift on liquor or drugs. 
Grants for Education and Dallas
The Harold Simmons Foundation began operations in 1988 but stayed small until Simmons’s death. In 1988, Simmons personally made a 20-year, $41 million gift to the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, the largest gift made to a Texas university or medical school. The university said that $24 million of the gift would be used to create a cancer research center, $5 million would be used to construct a building for the cancer research institute, and $12 million would be used to fund the Harold C. Simmons Arthritis Research Center between 1988-2003. Simmons had previously donated $7 million to the university for arthritis research between 1983-88. 
In 2007, Harold and Annette Simmons donated $20 million to Southern Methodist University, which the university said it would use to spend $10 million on a new building, $5 million for an endowed fund for graduate fellowships, and $5 million on an endowed fund to hire deans and recruit faculty. 
In this period, the Simmonses donated $5 million for the windows at the newly constructed Dallas Opera House.  The Simmonses also gave $5 million to a South African school founded by Oprah Winfrey, and Annette Simmons appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” twice. 
In 2016, Annette Simmons donated $50 million for a park to be constructed along the Trinity River in Dallas, which would be named Simmons Park. The grant provided for $10 million to be donated immediately with the remaining $40 million in installments if construction of the park remained on schedule. 
Changes after Harold’s Death
After Harold Simmons died in 2013, his daughters Lisa K. Simmons and Serena Simmons Connelly inherited his shares in Contran Corp., while Annette Simmons inherited Valhi preferred shares and Simmons’s homes. Bloomberg estimated that the value of the Contran shares was $3.4 billion and the Valhi shares $667 million. Harold Simmons’s other two daughters, Scheryle Patigian and Andrea Swanson, inherited nothing, but received $50 million each in a battle over the estate in 1997-98, which Patigian and Swanson lost.  Lisa Simmons and Serena Simmons Connelly have shifted the foundation’s grantmaking strongly toward left-of-center advocacy.
While Harold Simmons was alive, the Harold Simmons Foundation donated to Planned Parenthood and immigrant-rights organizations. Monica Langley reported in 2013 that Serena Simmons Connelly “strongly disagrees with her father’s politics” but had agreed to remove a bumper sticker supporting President Obama from her car as a concession to her father. 
In 2016, the Harold Simmons Foundation donated $1 million to Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, a donation matched by the Boone Family Foundation. The Dallas Morning News reported that the money would be used to provide intrauterine device (IUD) contraceptives to women in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. 
In 2019 the Bloomberg School of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University released a study, backed by the Harold Simmons Foundation, that polled gun owners about their view on personalized or “smart” guns. The survey reported that 79 percent supported the sale of personalized guns from licensed gun dealers but that only 18 percent would buy such a gun if the guns cost $300 more than non-personalized guns. 
In 2017, the Harold Simmons Foundation gave $7.7 million in grants, including million-dollar grants to Lumin Education and the Dallas Zoological Society. National organizations getting smaller grants included the Alliance for Justice, Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, Equal Justice USA, National Day Laborer Organizing Network, New Venture Fund, Planned Parenthood of Central Texas, and Sandy Hook Promise.