Probate Judge Michael Miller did not immediately rule Wednesday on whether to seal the will of the Dallas corporate titan who gave hundreds of millions of dollars to charity when he was alive and bankrolled several political campaigns—most notably efforts to discredit former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's war service record and ties between President Barack Obama and Vietnam-era militant William Ayers.
Attorney Ginger Appleberry said the public had limited interest in Simmons' will because he left all of his money to his family. She said "idle curiosity" did not outweigh the safety and privacy concerns held by his widow, Annette Simmons.
Appleberry said the will contains the addresses of Simmons' homes and ranches, lists valuable artwork and other assets he owned, and names family members who stand to inherit some of his billions of dollars in assets.
In the wrong hands, the will could be a "treasure map" for criminals, she said.
"Yes, Harold Simmons could be considered a public figure," Appleberry argued, adding: "But we also need to remember that Mr. Simmons was a husband, father and grandfather."
Miller said he would likely seal at least part of the will, but indicated he would take longer to make a final decision on how much to keep private.
Attorneys for Annette Simmons wouldn't say how much the Simmons estate is worth, only that it has "significant" value.
The will was signed Dec. 5, just 23 days before Simmons died at a Dallas hospital.
Born in East Texas, Simmons rose from poverty to buy a small Dallas drugstore, from which he eventually built a sprawling corporate empire with interests ranging from metals to a nuclear waste dump in West Texas.
He was a reclusive man who rarely gave interviews, but became known in Texas for his charity to hospitals, civic organizations and other groups. The president of UT Southwestern Medical Center estimated that Simmons gave $200 million to the research hospital alone.
Simmons also was active in politics and gave heavily to national and Texas Republicans, though he also donated money to Planned Parenthood and the Resource Center, a group that serves Dallas' lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
Follow Nomaan Merchant on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/nomaanmerchant.