H. Ross Perot, the picturesque, self-made Texas billionaire who ascended from a boyhood of Depression-era scarcity and twice ran for president as a third-party candidate, has died. He was 89.
Perot, whose 19% of the vote in 1992 persists among the best displays by an independent candidate in the 20th century, departed early Tuesday at his home in Dallas encircled by his faithful family, family spokesman James Fuller stated.
As a lad in Texarkana, Texas, Perot transported newspapers from the back of a pony. He obtained his billions in a more modernistic way, however. After attending the U.S. Naval Academy and becoming a salesperson for IBM, he went his own way — designing and manufacturing Electronic Data Systems Corp., which encouraged other companies to manage their computer networks.
He bankrolled a secret commando incursion in 1979 to free two EDS employees who were being detained in a prison in Iran. The anecdote was turned into a book and a movie.
Perot principally became recognized to Americans outside of business circles by maintaining that the U.S. government left behind numbers of American soldiers who were missing or imprisoned at the conclusion of the Vietnam War. Perot fanned the subject at home and considered it privately with Vietnamese officials in the 1980s, agitating the Reagan administration, which was formally consulting with Vietnam’s government.
Perot’s wealth, prestige and confident prescript for the country’s financial troubles propelled his 1992 crusade against President George H.W. Bush and Democratic challenger Bill Clinton. Some Republicans criticized him for Bush’s loss to Clinton as Perot accumulated the most substantial percentage of votes for a third-party candidate since former President Theodore Roosevelt’s 1912 attempt.
During the campaign, Perot allocated $63.5 million of his own money and purchased 30-minute television spots. He employed charts and graphs to make his points, summarizing them with a line that became a political catchphrase: “It’s just that simple.”
Perot’s following campaign four years later was considerably less successful. He was locked out of presidential debates when organizers said he lacked sufficient support. He received just 8% of the vote, and the Reform Party that he established and expected to strengthen into a national governmental force began to fall apart.