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Ross Perot, Billionaire and Former Presidential Candidate, Dead at 89

Business magnate who ran for president in 1992 and 1996 succumbs to leukemia

Undeclared candidate for President of the United States Ross Perot holds a press conference in Annapolis, Maryland.Ross Perot press conference in Annapolis, Maryland, USA - 24 Jun 1992

Ross Perot, a business magnate and two-time presidential candidate, died on Tuesday at the age of 89.

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Ross Perot, the Texas-born self-made billionaire who twice ran for president as a third party candidate, had died at 89 after a bout with leukemia.

The former candidate died at his Dallas home on Tuesday surrounded by family members, according to a statement released by his family. “In business and in life, Ross was a man of integrity and action,” the statement read. “A true American patriot and a man of rare vision, principle and deep compassion, he touched the lives of countless people through his unwavering support of the military and veterans and through his charitable endeavors.”

Perot, who made his fortune in computers, is best known for his presidential runs in 1992 and 1996. Fashioning himself as an uncompromising political outsider looking to shake up Washington, in 1992 he garnered close to 19 percent of the popular vote as an Independent. Though many Republicans claimed his candidacy cost incumbent George H.W. Bush the election, Perot’s support came from across the political spectrum.

Perot founded the Reform Party prior to his 1996 campaign. Though it was less successful than his first run at the White House and did not feature appearances on the debate stage next to the top candidates, Perot was still able to pull in over 8 percent of the popular vote. He wasn’t satisfied with the results of what had been a frustrating campaign. “War has rules. Mud wrestling has rules. Politics has no rules,” he said two months prior to the election. Despite the loss, no third party candidate has come close to drawing the support that Perot did since.

Perot’s life prior to his entry into politics was just as colorful as his never-ending supply of folksy sayings suggested. A Navy veteran, Perot worked for IBM before founding computer services company Electronic Data Systems in 1962. He became wealthy after the company went public six years later, and a billionaire when he sold it to General Motors in 1984. In 1988, he founded Perot Systems, which was sold to Dell in 2009 for close to $4 billion.

Despite the breadth of his business acumen, Perot’s life was occupied by far more than computers. In 1969, he chartered a pair jets, filled them with provisions, and embarked for Vietnam in an effort to improve conditions for American prisoners of war. A decade later, in 1979, he organized a raid of an Iranian prison to free two EDS employees who had been taken hostage. In the Eighties, he became heavily involved with the War on Drugs in his home state of Texas. Perot was also a philanthropist, education advocate, Norman Rockwell fan, and for decades owned one of the only copies of the Magna Carta to leave the United Kingdom.

After the news of his death was announced, George W. Bush released a statement in which he wrote that Perot “epitomized the entrepreneurial spirit and the American creed”

Eric Johnson, the mayor of Perot’s longtime home of Dallas, wrote that Perot was a “veteran, a successful businessman, and philanthropist who spent his life working hard to make our city, state, and country better.”

Perot is survived by his wife, Margot, whom he married in 1956, and their five children. “Ross Perot will be deeply missed by all who loved him,” the family’s statement read. “He lived a long and honorable life.”

This story is developing.

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