Ross Perot, the self-made billionaire, philanthropist, and two-time presidential candidate, has died following a five-month battle with leukemia at the age of 89.
The pioneer of the computer services industry, who founded Electronic Data Systems Corp. in 1962 and Perot Systems Corp. 26 years later, was just 5-foot-6, but his presence filled a room.
“Describe my father?” Ross Perot Jr., his only son and CEO of the Perot Group, asked rhetorically in an interview. “Obviously a great family man, wonderful father. But at the end of the day, he was a wonderful humanitarian.
“Every day he came to work trying to figure out how he could help somebody.”
Perot was diagnosed with leukemia in February. A massive secondary infection the next month nearly killed him, according to the family.
In true Perot fashion, he fought back, showing up at the office most days in his dark suit with the omnipresent American flag on his lapel.
Former President George W. Bush has released a statement:
NEW: Former Pres. George W. Bush on passing of Ross Perot: "Texas and America have lost a strong patriot. Ross Perot epitomized the entrepreneurial spirit and the American creed." https://t.co/mBeJFeb1CM pic.twitter.com/SqG3fmhBjl
— ABC News (@ABC) July 9, 2019
I was only twelve when he first ran for president in 1992. I was not into politics at that age, but I can remember there was something about Perot that was unforgettable. I was in middle school, and there was a mock election held, and I can remember him winning that election. Despite being an independent candidate, he had a message that resonated with people. Of course, there’s a lot more to his life story than his presidential bids.
“Ross was the unusual combination of his father, who was a powerful, big, burly cotton trader — a hard-ass, practical, cut-deals person — and a mother who was a little-bitty woman who was sweet, warm, wonderful,” Meyerson said. “Ross was tough, smart, practical, loved to negotiate. But he had a warm and kind heart, too.”
In recent years, Perot Sr.’s memory was dimming, but he and Margot, his wife of more than 60 years, maintained a steady social calendar.
Nancy Perot said there was a private, tender side to her father that was often eclipsed by his bolder-than-life public persona.
No matter how busy Perot was, family dinners were sacrosanct when the children were growing up. The only time he wasn’t at the head of the table to say grace was when he was out of town.
“I want people to know about Dad’s twinkle in his eyes,” she said. “He always gave us the biggest hugs. We never doubted that we were the most important things in his life.”
Ross Perot’s entrepreneurial spirit was something that began when he was just 8-years-old when he had a paper route.
Perot started throwing the Texarkana Gazette as an 8-year-old. He later credited his newspaper experience with shaping his entrepreneurial ways.
Perot attended Texarkana College before entering the U.S. Naval Academy in 1949.
He met Margot on a blind date when he was a midshipman and she was at Goucher College in Baltimore.
In his autobiography, Ross Perot: My Life & the Principles for Success, Perot reflected on getting several pairs of shoes and a dozen sets of underwear after being sworn into the academy on his 19th birthday.
He had never had more than one pair of shoes and three or four sets of underwear at a time in his life.
“This was possibly my first example of government waste,” he wrote.
Perot is survived by his wife Margot, five children, and sixteen grandchildren.