Henry Ross Perot|
June 27, 1930 (age 91)
Texarkana Junior College|
United States Naval Academy
|Net worth||US$3.5 billion (2012)|
H. Ross, Jr. |
|Service/branch||United States Navy|
|Years of service||1953–1957|
Henry Ross Perot (//; born June 27, 1930) is an American businessman best known for being an Independent Party Presidential Candidate in 1992 and 1996. Perot founded Electronic Data Systems (EDS) in 1962, sold the company to General Motors in 1984, and founded Perot Systems in 1988. Perot Systems was bought by Dell for $3.9 billion in 2009.
With an estimated net worth of about US$3.5 billion in 2012, he is ranked by Forbes as the 101st-richest person in the United States.
Perot was born in Texarkana, Texas, to Lula May Perot (née Ray) and Gabriel Ross Perot. His father was a cotton broker of French-Canadian ancestry He attended a private school called Patty Hill. He graduated from Texas High School in Texarkana in 1947. One of Perot's boyhood friends was Hayes McClerkin, later Speaker of the Arkansas House of Representatives and a prominent Texarkana, Arkansas, lawyer.
From 1947 to 1949, he attended Texarkana Junior College, then entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1949 and helped establish its honor system. Perot said his appointment notice to the academy—sent by telegram—was sent by W. Lee "Pappy" O'Daniel, Texas' 34th governor and former senator.
By the time Perot graduated in 1953 he was president of his class and battalion commander. By late 1954, Perot was made a lieutenant, junior grade. In 1955, however, Perot expressed some discontent with his life in the U.S. Navy in a letter to his father. He quietly served the remainder of his four-year commitment and resigned his commission. Perot married Margot Birmingham of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, in 1956.
After he left the Navy in 1957, Perot became a salesman for International Business Machines. He quickly became a top employee, one year fulfilling his annual sales quota in two weeks, and tried to pitch his ideas to supervisors who largely ignored him. He left IBM in 1962 to found Electronic Data Systems (EDS) in Dallas, Texas, and courted large corporations for his data processing services. Perot was refused seventy-seven times before he was given his first contract. EDS received lucrative contracts from the U.S. government in the 1960s, computerizing Medicare records. EDS went public in 1968 and the stock price rose from $16 a share to $160 within days. Fortune called Perot the "fastest, richest Texan" in a 1968 cover story. In 1984 General Motors bought controlling interest in EDS for $2.4 billion.
In 1974 Perot gained some press attention for being "the biggest individual loser ever on the New York Stock Exchange" when his EDS shares dropped $450 million in value in a single day in April 1970.
Just prior to the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the government of Iran imprisoned two EDS employees in a contract dispute. Perot organized and sponsored their rescue. The rescue team was led by retired U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel Arthur D. "Bull" Simons. When the team was unable to find a way to extract their two prisoners, they decided to wait for a mob of pro-Ayatollah revolutionaries to storm the jail and free all 10,000 inmates, many of whom were political prisoners. The two prisoners then connected with the rescue team, and the team spirited them out of Iran via a risky border crossing into Turkey. The exploit was recounted in a book, On Wings of Eagles by Ken Follett, which became a best-seller. In the 1986 miniseries, Perot was portrayed by Richard Crenna.
In 1984 Perot bought a very early copy of Magna Carta, one of only a few to leave the United Kingdom. It was lent to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., where it was displayed alongside the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution. In 2007, it was sold by the Perot Foundation, in order to provide "for medical research, for improving public education and for assisting wounded soldiers and their families." The document sold for US$21.3 million on December 18, 2007, to David Rubenstein, managing director of the Carlyle Group and kept on display at the National Archives.
As Steve Jobs lost the original power struggle at Apple and left to found NeXT, his angel investor was Perot who invested over 20 million dollars. Perot believed in Jobs and did not want to miss out, as he had with his chance to invest in Bill Gates' fledgling Microsoft.
In 1988 he founded Perot Systems Corporation, Inc. in Plano, Texas. His son, Ross Perot, Jr., eventually succeeded him as CEO. In September 2009, Perot Systems was acquired by Dell for $3.9 billion.
Early political activities
Perot became heavily involved in the Vietnam War POW/MIA issue. He believed that hundreds of American servicemen were left behind in Southeast Asia at the end of the U.S. involvement in the war, and that government officials were covering up POW/MIA investigations in order to avoid revealing a drug smuggling operation used to finance a secret war in Laos. Perot engaged in unauthorized back-channel discussions with Vietnamese officials in the late 1980s, which led to fractured relations between Perot and the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations. In 1990, Perot reached agreement with Vietnam's Foreign Ministry to become its business agent in the event that diplomatic relations were normalized. Perot also launched private investigations of, and attacks upon, U.S. Department of Defense official Richard Armitage.
In Florida in 1990, retired financial planner Jack Gargan funded a series of "I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it anymore" (a reference to a famous quotation from the 1976 political and mass media satire movie, Network) newspaper advertisements denouncing the U.S. Congress for voting for legislative pay raises at a time when average wages nationwide were not increasing. Gargan later founded "Throw the Hypocritical Rascals Out" (THRO), which Ross Perot supported.
Maya Lin, architect of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial received harassment from Perot after her race was revealed: he was known to have called her an "egg roll" after it was revealed that she was Asian.
Perot did not support President George H. W. Bush and vigorously opposed the United States involvement in the 1990–1991 Persian Gulf War. He unsuccessfully urged Senators to vote against the war resolution, and began to consider his own presidential run.
1992 presidential candidacy
On February 20, 1992, he appeared on CNN's Larry King Live and announced his intention to run as an independent if his supporters could get his name on the ballot in all fifty states. With such declared policies as balancing the federal budget, a firm pro-choice stance on abortion, opposition to gun control, expansion of the War on Drugs, ending outsourcing of jobs, belief in protectionism on trade, advocating the Environmental Protection Agency and enacting electronic direct democracy via "electronic town halls," he became a potential candidate and soon polled roughly even with the two major party candidates.
Perot's candidacy received increasing media attention when the competitive phase of the primary season ended for the two major parties. With the insurgent candidacies of Republican Pat Buchanan and Democrat Jerry Brown winding down, Perot was the natural beneficiary of populist resentment toward establishment politicians. On May 25, 1992, he was featured on the cover of Time with the title "Waiting for Perot," an allusion to Samuel Beckett's play Waiting for Godot.
Several months before the Democratic and Republican conventions, Perot filled the vacuum of election news, as his supporters began petition drives to get him on the ballot in all fifty states. This sense of momentum was reinforced when Perot employed two savvy campaign managers in Democrat Hamilton Jordan and Republican Ed Rollins. In July, while Perot was pondering whether to run for office, his supporters established a campaign organization United We Stand America. Perot was late in making formal policy proposals, but most of what he did call for were intended to reduce the deficit. He wanted a gasoline tax increase and some cutbacks of Social Security.
By the summer Perot commanded a lead in the presidential race with thirty-nine percent of the vote. By mid-July, the Washington Post reported that Perot's campaign managers were becoming increasingly disillusioned by his unwillingness to follow their advice to be more specific on issues, and his need to be in full control of operations with such tactics as forcing volunteers to sign loyalty oaths. Perot's poll numbers began to slip to 25%, and his advisers warned that if he continued to ignore them, he would fall into single digits. Co-manager Hamilton Jordan threatened to quit, and on July 15, Ed Rollins resigned after Perot fired advertisement specialist Hal Riney, who worked with Rollins on the Reagan campaign. Rollins would later claim that a member of the campaign accused him of being a Bush plant with ties to the CIA. Amidst the chaos, Perot's support fell to 20%. The next day, Perot announced on Larry King Live that he would not seek the presidency. He explained that he did not want the House of Representatives to decide the election if the result caused the electoral college to be split. Perot eventually stated the reason was that he received threats that digitally altered photographs would be released by the Bush campaign to sabotage his daughter's wedding. Regardless of the reasons for withdrawing, his reputation was badly damaged. Many of his supporters felt betrayed and public opinion polls would subsequently show a large negative view of Perot that was absent prior to his decision to end the campaign.
In September, he qualified for all fifty state ballots. On October 1, he announced his intention to reenter the presidential race. He said that Republican operatives had wanted to reveal compromising photographs of his daughter, which would disrupt her wedding, and he wanted to spare her from embarrassment. He campaigned in 16 states and spent an estimated $12.3 million of his own money. Perot employed the innovative strategy of purchasing half-hour blocks of time on major networks for infomercial-type campaign advertisements; this advertising garnered more viewership than many sitcoms, with one Friday night program in October attracting 10.5 million viewers.
Perot's running mate was retired Vice Admiral James Stockdale, a highly decorated former Vietnam prisoner of war (POW). In December 1969 he organized and flew to North Vietnam in an attempt to deliver thirty tons of supplies to beleaguered American POWs in North Vietnam. Although North Vietnam blocked the flights, the effort was instrumental in bringing the plight of those POWs to the world's attention and their captors soon began treating them better.
At one point in June, Perot led the polls with 39% (versus 31% for Bush and 25% for Clinton). Just prior to the debates, Perot received 7–9% support in nationwide polls. It is likely that the debates played a significant role in his ultimate receipt of 19% of the popular vote. Although his answers during the debates were often general, many Democrats and Republicans conceded that Perot won at least the first debate. In the debate he remarked: "Keep in mind our Constitution predates the Industrial Revolution. Our founders did not know about electricity, the train, telephones, radio, television, automobiles, airplanes, rockets, nuclear weapons, satellites, or space exploration. There's a lot they didn't know about. It would be interesting to see what kind of document they'd draft today. Just keeping it frozen in time won't hack it."
Perot denounced Congress for its inaction in his speech at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., on March 18, 1992. Perot said:
This city has become a town filled with sound bites, shell games, handlers, media stuntmen who posture, create images, talk, shoot off Roman candles, but don't ever accomplish anything. We need deeds, not words, in this city.
In the 1992 election, he received 18.9% of the popular vote, approximately 19,741,065 votes (but no electoral college votes), making him the most successful third-party presidential candidate in terms of the popular vote since Theodore Roosevelt in the 1912 election. Unlike Perot, however, some other third-party candidates since Roosevelt have won electoral college votes. (Robert La Follette had 13 in 1924, Strom Thurmond had 39 in 1948, George Wallace had 46 in 1968 and John Hospers won one in 1972). Compared with Thurmond and Wallace, who polled very strongly in a small number of states, Perot's vote was more evenly spread across the country. Perot managed to finish second in two states: In Maine, Perot received 30.44% of the vote to Bush's 30.39% (Clinton won Maine with 38.77%); in Utah, Perot received 27.34% of the vote to Clinton's 24.65% (Bush won Utah with 43.36%). Although Perot won no state, he received the most votes in some counties, including Trinity County, California.
A detailed analysis of voting demographics revealed that Perot's support drew heavily from across the political spectrum, with 20% of his votes coming from self-described liberals, 27% from self-described conservatives, and 53% coming from self-described moderates. Economically, however, the majority of Perot voters (57%) were middle class, earning between $15,000 and $49,000 annually, with the bulk of the remainder drawing from the upper middle class (29% earning more than $50,000 annually). Exit polls also showed that Ross Perot drew 38% of his vote from Bush, and 38% of his vote from Clinton, while the rest of his voters would have stayed home had he not been on the ballot.
Based on his performance in the popular vote in 1992, Perot was entitled to receive federal election funding for 1996. Perot remained in the public eye after the election and championed opposition to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), urging voters to listen for the "giant sucking sound" of American jobs heading south to Mexico should NAFTA be ratified.
Reform Party and 1996 presidential run
Perot tried to keep his movement alive through the mid-1990s, continuing to speak about the increasing national debt. He was a prominent campaigner against the North American Free Trade Agreement, and even debated with Al Gore on the issue on Larry King Live. Perot's behavior during the debate was a source of mirth thereafter, including his repeated pleas to "let me finish" in his southern drawl. The debate was seen by many as effectively ending Perot's political career. Support for NAFTA went from 34% to 57%.
In 1995, he founded the Reform Party and won their nomination for the 1996 election. His running mate was Pat Choate. Because of the ballot access laws, he had to run as an Independent on many state ballots. Perot received eight percent of the popular vote in 1996, much less than in the 1992 race but still an unusually successful third-party showing by U.S. standards. He spent much less of his own money in this race than he had four years before, and also allowed other people to contribute to his campaign, unlike his prior race. One common explanation for the decline was Perot's exclusion from the presidential debates, based on the preferences of the Democratic and Republican party candidates. Jamin B. Raskin of Open Debates filed a lawsuit on Perot's behalf on this assumption.
Later in the 1990s, Perot's detractors accused him of not allowing the Reform Party to develop into a genuine national political party, but rather using it as a vehicle to promote himself. They cited as evidence the control of party offices by operatives from his presidential campaigns. Perot did not give an endorsement during Jesse Ventura's run for governor of Minnesota in the 1998 election, and this became suspicious to detractors when he made fun of Ventura at a conference after Ventura had a falling out with the press. The party leadership grew in tighter opposition to groups supporting Ventura and Jack Gargan. Evidence of this was demonstrated when Gargan was officially removed as Reform Party Chairman by the Reform Party National Committee.
In the 2000 presidential election, Perot refused to become openly involved with the internal Reform Party dispute between supporters of Pat Buchanan and of John Hagelin. Perot was reportedly unhappy with what he saw as the disintegration of the party, as well as his own portrayal in the press; thus he chose to remain quiet. He appeared on Larry King Live four days before the election and endorsed George W. Bush for president. Despite his earlier opposition to NAFTA, Perot remained largely silent about expanded use of guest worker visas in the United States, with Buchanan supporters attributing this silence to his corporate reliance on foreign workers. Some state parties affiliated with the new (Buchananite) America First Party; others gave Ralph Nader their ballot lines in the 2004 presidential election.
Since then, Perot has been largely silent on political issues, refusing to answer most questions from the press. When interviewed, he usually remains on the subject of his business career and refuses to answer specific questions on politics, candidates, or his past activities.
The one exception to this came in 2005, when he was asked to testify before the Texas Legislature in support of proposals to extend technology to students, including making laptops available to them; additionally, changing the process of buying textbooks, by making electronic books (ebooks) available and by allowing schools to buy books at the local level instead of going through the state. In an April 2005 interview, Perot expressed concern about the state of progress on issues that he had raised in his presidential runs.
In January 2008, Perot publicly came out against Republican candidate John McCain and endorsed Mitt Romney for President. He also announced that he would soon be launching a new website with updated economic graphs and charts. In June 2008, the blog launched, focusing on entitlements (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security), the U.S. national debt and related issues.
In 2012, Perot endorsed Mitt Romney for President.
- In 1986, Perot received the S. Roger Horchow Award for Greatest Public Service by a Private Citizen, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards.
- On April 22, 2009, Ross Perot was made an Honorary Green Beret at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, that also honored the OSS, Alamo Scouts and the First Special Service Force, elite World War II units that were inducted into the "1st Special Forces" Regiment.
- Perot was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1988.
- On September 18, 2009, the Texarkana Independent School District named him (1947 graduate of Texas High School) as a 2009 Distinguished Alumnus.
- In May 2009, he was appointed an honorary chairman of The OSS Society.
- On October 15, 2009, the U.S. Military Academy at West Point awarded him with the distinguished Sylvanus Thayer Award.
- In honor of Perot's 80th birthday, the bridge connecting Walton and University drives in Texarkana, Texas, was named the H. Ross Perot Bridge.
- On October 2, 2010, Perot was given the William J. Donovan Award from the OSS Society at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Washington, D.C. He is the 26th receipent of the award.
- In September 2011, Perot accepted the Army Heritage Center Foundation's Boots on the Ground Award.
- On October 28, 2011, the Museum of Nature & Science in Dallas announced it was naming a new species of the dinosaur genus Pachyrhinosaurus after the Perot family. The new species is named Pachyrhinosaurus perotorum.
United States presidential election, 1992
- Bill Clinton/Al Gore (D) – 44,909,806 (43.0%) and 370 electoral votes (32 states and D.C. carried)
- George H. W. Bush/Dan Quayle (R) (Inc.) – 39,104,550 (37.4%) and 168 electoral votes (18 states carried)
- Ross Perot/James Stockdale (I) – 19,743,821 (18.9%) and 0 electoral votes
- Andre Marrou/Nancy Lord (L) – 290,087 (0.3%) and 0 electoral votes
United States presidential election, 1996
- Bill Clinton/Al Gore (D) (Inc.) – 47,400,125 (49.2%) and 379 electoral votes (31 states and D.C. carried)
- Bob Dole/Jack Kemp (R) – 39,198,755 (40.7%) and 159 electoral votes (19 states carried)
- Ross Perot/Pat Choate (Ref.) – 8,085,402 (8.4%) and 0 electoral votes
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- Magna Carta Is Going on the Auction Block September 25, 2007
- Magna Carta Copy Sold December 19, 2007
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- "Perot asks volunteers to sign loyalty oaths". St. Petersburg Times. July 14, 1992. p. 2A.
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- Forbes 400
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|Wikiquote has media related to: Ross Perot|
- United We Stand, H. Ross Perot; text of the book published by Perot in 1992 to mark the launch of his presidential campaign, complete with charts. The text is hosted by the site of the organization he created that year United We Stand America, as saved by The Internet Archive.
- Booknotes interview with Carolyn Barta on Perot and His People: Disrupting the Balance of Political Power, January 16, 1994.
- "Ross Perot, Presidential Contender" from C-SPAN's The Contenders
|Party political offices|
|Reform Party Presidential candidate
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