Ross Perot, Billionaire Businessman and 2-Time Presidential Candidate, Dies at 89

Third-place finisher in 1992 presidential election lost a five-month battle with leukemia

Last Updated: July 9, 2019 @ 8:29 AM

Ross Perot, a two-time independent candidate for U.S. president and Texas business kingpin, has died on Tuesday morning after a five-month battle with leukemia, TheWrap has confirmed. He was 89-years-old.

Perot memorably grabbed 19% of the general election vote in 1992, marking one of the best performances by an independent candidate in the past century. He spent more than $63 million of his own money to buy 30-minute TV spots during the election, walking viewers through his trademark charts that detailed the country’s economic issues. Perot often punctuated his TV lectures with the phrase “it’s just that simple” — an expression that quickly caught on nationally.

Perot died at his home in Dallas while surrounded by his family early Tuesday morning, a family spokesperson said.

“Describe my father?” Ross Perot Jr. said in an interview with the Dallas Morning News. “Obviously a great family man, wonderful father. But at the end of the day, he was a wonderful humanitarian.”

He added: “Every day he came to work trying to figure out how he could help somebody.”

Born Henry Ross Perot in Texarkana, Texas in 1930 at the beginning of the Great Depression, Perot joined the Navy before returning to Texas in 1955 and becoming a top salesman at IBM. He soon became a leader in the budding computer hardware business, founding Electronic Data Systems in 1962 alongside his wife, Margot. Perot hired many former military men in the early days at EDS, with many sporting a crew cut like their boss and working long hours, according to the AP. The company went public in 1968, making Perot a multi-millionaire. EDS was eventually sold to General Motors in 1984, netting Perot about $700 million. He went on to found Perot Systems Corp., another computer-service business that continued to increase his net worth.

While at EDS in 1979, Perot financed a rescue team to save two company employees that had been detained in Iran — a mission that was later recounted in the book “On Wings of Eagles” by Ken Follett.

His business career helped him later propel into politics. Perot outlined his plan to eliminate the national debt within five years during his 1992 presidential run by raising taxes on the wealthy and cutting government spending.

“I don’t have any experience in running up a $4 trillion debt,” Perot said during a 1992 presidential debate. “I don’t have any experience in gridlock government, where nobody takes responsibility for anything and everybody blames everybody else.”

Despite grabbing nearly 20 million votes alongside running mate James Stockdale, he did not earn any electoral votes, placing him third behind Republican incumbent George H.W. Bush and Democratic winner Bill Clinton. Still, his 19% of votes made him the most successful third-party candidate since Teddy Roosevelt in 1912.

His 1992 presidential bid was also indelibly parodied by Dana Carvey on “Saturday Night Live.”

Perot made another run for the White House in 1996, grabbing about 8% of the popular vote and losing to Clinton once again.

Perot is survived by his wife, his five children and 16 grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, the Perot family asks that memorial contributions be made to one of his favorite charities; more information on those charities can be found here. The family also asked for support for the following organizations:  Circle Ten Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Perot Museum of Nature and Science, North Texas Food Bank, Salvation Army DFW, Teach for America: Dallas/ Fort Worth, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and Visiting Nurses Association of Dallas.

Tony Maglio contributed to this report. 

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