Culture / Newsy

Ross Perot’s Incredible Texas Legacy — Self-Made Billionaire Never Forgot Where He Came From

Dead at Age 89, Perot's Great American Life is the Stuff of Legends

BY // 07.09.19

Self-made Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot died at age 89 on Tuesday morning, leaving behind an immense legacy. The two-time maverick presidential candidate changed politics, pioneered the computer services industry and transformed the city of Dallas with his philanthropy.

Perot passed away at his Dallas home after a five-month battle with leukemia. Even after the cancer diagnosis, Perot would still show up at the office to work. That’s just how he was raised. This legend is a Texan through and through.

Perot was born in Texarkana in 1930. His first business venture as a boy was delivering newspapers from the back of a pony. After attending the U.S. Naval Academy, he worked as a salesman at IBM. He then went on to build Electronic Data Systems Corporation, sold it, founded Perot Systems, sold that and made billions.

Despite his financial successes, it was Perot’s drive to rescue Vietnam War veterans that molded his lasting legacy. In the ’70s, Perot worked to improve treatment of POWs and free American soldiers that had been left behind.

In 1979, Perot orchestrated the rescue of two EDS employees who were held in prison in Iran. Ken Follett wrote a nonfiction thriller, On Wings of Eagles, about the bold rescue. It was then made into a TV miniseries.

Perot ran as an independent in the 1992 presidential campaign, and later in the 1996 for his self-created Reform Party. Although losing both races, he ran one of the most successful third-party presidential candidacies in American history in ’92 by gaining 19 percent of the vote. In many ways, he changed the perception and impact of third-party candidates.

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The somewhat eccentric 5-foot-6 billionaire philanthropist earned many awards throughout his life, such as Winston Churchill Award in 1986, William J. Donovan Award, and the honor of having the Perot Museum of Nature & Science in Dallas named after him. The Perot family also got a new species of dinosaur named after them called Pachyrhinosaurus perotorum. He donated $10 million to spur the build of the Meyerson Symphony Center in 1984 — and that’s just one example of his generosity helping to transform Dallas.

Ross Perot’s estimated net worth for this year was put at $4.1 billion by Forbes. He is survived by his wife Margot, five children and 19 grandchildren.

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