Utah (UPI) — Two-time independent presidential candidate and billionaire Texas businessman H. Ross Perot died Tuesday after months of battling cancer, his family said. He was 89.
Perot had been fighting leukemia for five months, a Perot family spokesman said. He is survived by five children.
“In business and in life, Ross was a man of integrity and action,” spokesman James Fuller said in a statement. “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 was diagnosed with leukemia in February and received a secondary infection in March that his family said nearly killed him. He traveled to Bermuda for Easter and celebrated his 89th birthday in June.
Perot was a life-long Texan from Texarkana who entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1949 and served until 1957. He later worked as a salesman for IBM and founded Electronic Data Systems in Dallas in 1962. He took the company public in 1968, which sent its share price from $16 to $160 within days. General Motors ultimately bought a controlling interest in EDS for $2.4 billion. Perot then founded Perot Systems Corp. in Plano, Texas. His son Ross Perot Jr. took over as CEO and the company was acquired by Dell Corp. in 2009 for $3.9 billion.
“Describe my father?” Perot Jr. asked the Dallas Morning News. “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 rose to the political fore in 1992 when he ran a wildly successful presidential campaign as an independent. He polled well through the early summer before he dropped out of the race — only to return three months later, but to a depleted base of support.
Perot said he left the race due to threats toward his daughter’s reputation and wedding.
“The day I dropped out I got a call from [President George H.W. Bush], who wanted to meet immediately and wanted me to try to get all my volunteers to support the Republican Party,” Perot said at the time.
His performances in the debates spawned a long list of pop culture TV parodies and he ultimately finished third, with 19 percent of the national vote, behind former President Bill Clinton and the incumbent Bush.
Despite the loss, Perot’s campaign hailed a “tremendous victory,” UPI reported the day after the election.
“To do as well as we did was really remarkable,” Perot counsel Clayton Mulford said. “But more than that, what we are really pleased with was the outstanding turnout in the election and we think Ross Perot was responsible for that.”
“Texas and America have lost a strong patriot,” former President George W. Bush, the son of Perot’s 1992 GOP opponent, said Tuesday. “Ross Perot epitomized the entrepreneurial spirit and the American creed.
“Most importantly, he loved his dear wife, children, and grandchildren. Laura and I send our heartfelt condolences to the entire Perot family as they celebrate a full life.”
Perot’s namesake is on Dallas’ Museum of Nature and Science, a towering educational museum just north of downtown.
“We have lost a true Dallas icon,” Mayor Eric Johnson said. “Ross Perot was a veteran, successful businessman, and philanthropist who spent his life working hard to make our city, state, and country better.”