Ross Perot (/pəˈroʊ/; born June 27, 1930) is an American
business magnate and former politician. As the founder of Electronic
Data Systems, he became a billionaire. He ran an independent
presidential campaign in 1992 and a third party campaign in 1996,
establishing the Reform Party in the latter election. Both campaigns
were among the strongest presidential showings by a third party or
independent candidate in U.S. history.
Born in Texarkana, Texas, he became a salesman for
IBM after serving
in the United States Navy. In 1962, he founded Electronic Data
Systems, a data processing service company. In 1984, General Motors
bought a controlling interest in the company for $2.4 billion. Perot
Perot Systems in 1988 and was an angel investor for NeXT,
a computer company founded by
Steve Jobs after he left Apple. Perot
also became heavily involved in the
Vietnam War POW/MIA issue, arguing
that hundreds of American servicemen were left behind in Southeast
Asia after the Vietnam War. During President George H. W. Bush's
tenure, Perot became increasingly active in politics and strongly
Gulf War and ratification of the North American Free Trade
In 1992, Perot announced his intention to run for president and
advocated a balanced budget, an end to the outsourcing of jobs, and
the enactment of electronic direct democracy. A June 1992 Gallup poll
showed Perot leading a three-way race against President Bush and
presumptive Democratic nominee Bill Clinton. Perot briefly withdrew
from the race in July, but re-entered the race in early October after
he qualified for all 50 state ballots. He chose Admiral James
Stockdale as his running mate and appeared in the 1992 CPD debates
with Bush and Clinton. In the election, Perot won 18.9% of the popular
vote but did not win any electoral votes. He won support from across
the ideological and partisan spectrum, but performed best among
self-described moderates. Perot ran for president again in 1996,
establishing the Reform Party as a vehicle for his campaign. He won
8.4% of the popular vote against President Clinton and Republican
nominee Bob Dole.
Perot did not seek public office again after 1996 and did not enter
the 2000 Reform Party presidential primaries. He endorsed Republican
George W. Bush
George W. Bush over Reform nominee
Pat Buchanan in the 2000 election,
and supported Republican
Mitt Romney in 2008 and 2012. In 2009, Dell
Perot Systems for $3.9 billion. According to Forbes, Perot
was the 167th-richest person in the United States in 2016.
1 Early life
3 Political activities
3.1 Early political activities
4 Political views
4.2 Fiscal policy
4.3 Reform Party and 1996 presidential run
4.4 Later activities
5 Personal life
6 Honors and achievements
7 Electoral history
9 Further reading
10 External links
Perot was born in Texarkana, Texas, the son of Lula May Perot (née
Ray) and Gabriel Ross Perot, a commodity broker specializing in
cotton contracts. His patrilineal line traces back to an immigrant to
Louisiana, in the 1740s. He attended a private school called
Patty Hill. He graduated from
Texas High School
Texas High School in Texarkana in
1947. One of Perot's boyhood friends was Hayes McClerkin, later
Speaker of the
Arkansas House of Representatives
Arkansas House of Representatives and a prominent
Texarkana, Arkansas, lawyer.
Perot joined the
Boy Scouts of America
Boy Scouts of America and made Eagle Scout in 1942,
after 13 months in the program. He is a recipient of the Distinguished
Eagle Scout Award.
From 1947 to 1949, he attended Texarkana Junior College, then entered
U.S. Naval Academy
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's 34th
governor and former senator. Perot married Margot Birmingham of
Greensburg, Pennsylvania, in 1956.
L-R: Larry Hagman, Ross Perot, Margot Perot and Suzanne Perot (1988)
After he left the Navy in 1957, Perot became a salesman for IBM. He
quickly became a top employee (one year, he fulfilled his annual sales
quota in a mere two weeks) and tried to pitch his ideas to
supervisors, who largely ignored him. He left
IBM in 1962 to found
Electronic Data Systems
Electronic Data Systems (EDS) in Dallas, Texas, and courted large
corporations for his data processing services. Perot was refused 77
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
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.
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
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, 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 is kept on display at the National Archives.
Steve Jobs lost the original power struggle at Apple and left to
found NeXT, his angel investor was Perot, who invested over $20
million. Perot believed in Jobs and did not want to miss out, as he
had with his chance to invest in Bill Gates's fledgling Microsoft.
In 1988, he founded
Perot Systems Corporation, Inc. in Plano, Texas.
Ross Perot Jr., eventually succeeded him as CEO. In September
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 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.
Perot standing next to a portrait of
George Washington at his office
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.
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.
During Perot's political campaigns, he has been reluctant to speak
about social issues, as he is seen as socially liberal and usually
focused on his fiscal policies to keep support during his campaigns.
He has supported abortion, supports gay rights, is in favor of
stricter gun control and increased AIDS research.
In 1992, Perot stated he is pro-choice; however, since 2000, he has
been pro-choice only reluctantly.
Perot believes tax should be increased on the wealthy, while spending
should be cut to help pay off the national debt. Perot also believes
capital gains tax should be increased, instead giving tax breaks to
those starting new businesses instead of those 'just shooting dice on
Wall Street' and states in his book 'Not For Sale at Any Price': "We
cut the capital gains tax rate from a maximum rate of 35% to a maximum
rate that got as low as 20% during the 1980s. Who got the benefit? The
rich did, of course, because that's who owns most of the capital
Ross Perot presidential campaign, 1992
Perot in 1986
On February 20, 1992, he appeared on CNN's
Larry King Live
Larry King Live and
announced his intention to run as an independent if his supporters
could get his name on the ballot in all 50 states. With such declared
policies as balancing the federal budget, opposition to gun control,
ending the outsourcing of jobs 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
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 50 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, such as a
gasoline tax increase and cutbacks to Social Security.[citation
In June, Perot led a Gallup poll with 39% of the vote. By
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.
Amid the chaos, Perot's support fell to 20%. The next day, Perot
Larry King Live
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. Whatever his reasons for
withdrawing, his reputation was badly damaged. Many of his supporters
felt betrayed and public opinion polls subsequently showed a large
negative view of Perot that was absent prior to his decision to end
In September, he qualified for all 50 state ballots. On October 1, he
announced his intention to re-enter the presidential race. 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.
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. The debates likely 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, DC, 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, about
19,741,065 votes (but no electoral college votes), making him the most
successful third-party presidential candidate in terms of the popular
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, albeit from a faithless elector). 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
Utah with 43.36%). Although Perot did not win a 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,
though it's generally considered that he aided Clinton in defeating
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
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 NAFTA, and even debated with then
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 presidential
nomination for the 1996 election. His vice presidential running mate
was Pat Choate. Because of the ballot access laws, he had to run as an
Independent on many state ballots. Perot received 8% of the popular
vote in 1996, lower 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 about Perot's exclusion years later.
Perot attending the
2009 EagleBank Bowl
2009 EagleBank Bowl in Washington, D.C.
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
In the 2000 presidential election, Perot refused to become openly
involved with the internal Reform Party dispute between supporters of
Pat Buchanan and 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
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.
Perot speaking in 2006
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
One exception to this came in 2005, when he was asked to testify
Texas Legislature in support of proposals to extend
technology to students, including making laptops available to them. He
also supported changing the process of buying textbooks by making
e-books 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.
Two further exceptions came with his endorsements in the 2008 and 2012
elections. In January 2008, Perot publicly came out against Republican
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, this blog launched,
focusing on entitlements (Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security), the
U.S. national debt, and related issues. In 2012, Perot endorsed
Romney for president again. Perot did not give any endorsements
for the 2016 election.
Perot and his wife Margot (née Birmingham) have five children (Ross
Jr., Nancy, Suzanne, Carolyn, and Katherine). As of 2012[update], the
Perots had 16 grandchildren.
With an estimated net worth of about US$4.1 billion in 2017, he is
Forbes as the 167th-richest person in the United States.
Honors and achievements
In 1986, Perot received the S. Roger Horchow Award for Greatest Public
Service by a Private Citizen, an award given out annually by Jefferson
On April 22, 2009,
Ross Perot was made an honorary Green Beret at the
John F. Kennedy
John F. Kennedy
Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
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
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
On April 20, 2010, in Kansas City, Perot was presented with the
Distinguished Leadership Award from the Command and General Staff
College Foundation, Inc., Fort Leavenworth, KS
On October 2, 2010, Perot was given the
William J. Donovan
William J. Donovan Award from
the OSS Society at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in
Washington, D.C. He
is the 26th recipient 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
United States presidential election, 1992
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)
James Stockdale (I) – 19,743,821 (18.9%) and 0
Nancy Lord (L) – 290,087 (0.3%) and 0 electoral
United States presidential election, 1996
Al Gore (D) (Inc.) – 47,400,125 (49.2%) and 379
electoral votes (31 states and D.C. carried)
Jack Kemp (R) – 39,198,755 (40.7%) and 159 electoral
votes (19 states carried)
Pat Choate (Ref.) – 8,085,402 (8.4%) and 0 electoral
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^ "CGSC Foundation presents
Ross Perot with 2010 Distinguished
Leadership Award". The Command and General Staff College Foundation,
Inc. Retrieved July 27, 2014.
^ Martin, Marie Murray (September 30, 2010). "Perot to be given
distinguished award". Texarkana Gazette. Retrieved September 30,
2010. [permanent dead link]
^ Martin, Marie Murray (July 7, 2011). "
Ross Perot will be presented
with award". Texarkana Gazette. Archived from the original on June 9,
2013. Retrieved September 16, 2012.
^ "New dinosaur species named for Perot family". statesman.com.
Associated Press. October 28, 2011. Archived from the original on
November 1, 2011. Retrieved October 30, 2011.
Thomas M. Defrank, et al. Quest for the Presidency, 1992. Texas
A&M University Press. 1994.
Mason, Todd (1990). Perot. Business One Irwin. ISBN 1-55623-236-5
An unauthorized biography by a longtime Perot watcher.
Doron P. Levin, Irreconcilable Differences:
Ross Perot Versus General
Motors (New York: Plume, 1990)
Thomas Moore, The GM System is Like a Blanket of Fog, Fortune,
February 15, 1988
Posner, Gerald Citizen Perot: His Life and Times Random House. New
Clinton, Bill (2005). My Life. Vintage. ISBN 1-4000-3003-X.
Rapoport, Ronald and Walter Stone. Three's a Crowd: The Dynamic of
Third Parties, Ross Perot, and Republican Resurgence Ann Arbor:
University of Michigan Press, 2005.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ross Perot.
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Ross Perot
United We Stand, H.
Ross Perot at the
Wayback Machine (archived
December 9, 2000); 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.
Appearances on C-SPAN
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 nominee for President of the United States
United States Reform Party
United States Reform Party Presidential nominees
2016: De La Fuente
Notable third party performances in United States elections
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Alaska 2010 (Republican Write-In)
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United States presidential election, 1992
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Candidates Larry Agran
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Joan Jett Blakk
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