Texas Billionaire Ross Perot Dead at 89

Ross Perot speaks at the Christian Coalition Annual Meeting September 13, 1996. (Stinger via Reuters)

Self-made billionaire and two-time independent presidential candidate Ross Perot died Tuesday at 89 after a five-month battle with leukemia.

The Texas philanthropist and tech entrepreneur unsuccessfully ran for president in 1992 and 1996.

“In business and in life, Ross was a man of integrity and action. 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,” James Fuller, a representative for the Perot family, said in a statement.

The third child of Lulu May Ray and Gabriel, Perot was born in Texarkana in 1930. He entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1949 and went on to start his first company, Electronic Data Systems, with a $1,000 loan at age 32. He became a millionaire after taking the company public in 1968 and became a billionaire in 1984 when it was acquired by General Motors Corp.

In 1986, Perot became just the third American to receive the Winston Churchill Award for his efforts organizing protests over the treatment of American POWs in Vietnam and for his role in organizing a team of commandos to rescue two of his EDS employees from an Iranian prison in 1979. The rescue captured the country’s imagination and became the basis for Ken Follett’s 1983 thriller On Wings of Eagles as well as an NBC miniseries.

Having established himself as a successful entrepreneur, Perot managed to capture 19 percent of the popular vote in his first third-party presidential bid, ensuring Bill Clinton’s victory over George H.W. Bush.

Perot gave generously to numerous causes and was particularly troubled by the plight of veterans, donating $2.5 million to the University of Texas Southwestern toward further research on neurological symptoms suffered by soldiers returning from war. All told, Perot is said to have donated more than $100 million to the university.

Asked in 2016 how he wanted to be remembered, Perot told the Dallas Morning News, “Aw, I don’t worry about that.”

“Texas born. Texas bred. When I die, I’ll be Texas dead. Ha!” Perot said to conclude his final public interview.

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