J.R. Simplot the orator was a mixed bag

May 25, 2008 

He could leave hosts embarrassed and audiences confused. Occasionally his remarks were insensitive or of questionable taste. He was given to rambling, especially in his later years, and his choice of subjects could be wildly inappropriate. Asked to speak at the dedication of a statue of his wife at the Esther Simplot Performing Arts Academy, he forsook the arts entirely and expounded on Micron and microchips.

He also could wow audiences.

"He'd get up and talk about Communism or things like that, but people liked it better when he talked about his life,"his son Don said. "He had so much charisma. The Stanford business school asked him to give a speech when he was in his 80s. He talked a little about a lot of things, but mostly he talked about his own life and how you just had to get up and go to work in the morning. They gave him a standing ovation."

He could have given the students lessons in frugality.

"He got a discount at the motel for being over 65," Don said. "And he had me stay in the same room so he wouldn't have to pay more."

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