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Ross Perot
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Ross Perot

Henry Ross Perot (born June 27, 1930) is an American businessman and billionaire from Texas, as well as a former candidate for President of the United States. Perot founded Electronic Data Systems (EDS) in 1962. He later left the company, and founded Perot Systems with a similar ethos.

Perot was born in Texarkana, Texas. He entered the United States Naval Academy in 1949. By the time he graduated in 1953 he was president of his class and battalion commander. By late 1954, Perot was made a lieutenant, junior grade. However, in 1955, Perot expressed great discontent with his life in the Navy in a letter to his father. He quietly served the remainder of his four-year commitment and was discharged.

Ross married Margot Birminham of Greensburg, Pennsylvania in 1956. Over the years they had five children (Ross Jr., Nancy, Suzanne, Carolyn, and Katherine). As of 2002, the Perots have nine grandchildren.

When he left the navy in 1957, Perot became a salesman for International Business Machines (IBM). He quickly became a top employee and tried to pitch his ideas to supervisors who largely ignored him. He left IBM in 1962 to found EDS in Dallas, Texas and courted large corporations for his data processing services. Perot received lucrative contracts from the U.S. government in the 1960s, computerizing Medicare records. EDS went public in 1968 and the stock price shot up from $16 a share to $160 within days. Fortune magazine called Perot the "fastest, richest Texan" in a 1968 cover story. In 1984, General Motors bought EDS for $2.4 billion.

In 1979 the new government of Iran imprisoned two of his employees in a contract dispute. Ross organized and sponsored a successful rescue. The rescue team was led by retired U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel Arthur D.('Bull') Simons. When the team couldn't find a way to extract these two prisoners, they staged a jail break by all 10,000 inmates. The exploit was recounted in a book, On Wings of Eagles by Ken Follett, which became a best seller.

In 1984, Perot bought one of the original signed copies of the Magna Carta. This is the only copy to leave the United Kingdom. It is now on loan to the National Archives in Washington, D.C, where it is on display with the Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

Ross Perot put up the majority of the venture capital for Steve Jobs' NeXT computer project in 1986.

In 1986 after heavy criticism of GM he was bought out for 700 million USD.

In 1988 he founded Perot Systems in Plano, Texas.

Political Activities

Perot was not a fan of President George H. W. Bush and vigorously opposed the United States's involvement in the 1990-1991 Gulf War. He urged Senators to vote against the war resolution and began considering a Presidential run. On February 20, 1992, he appeared on CNN's Larry King Live and announced his intention to run if his supporters could get his name on the ballot in all 50 states. With such declared policies as balancing the federal budget and enacting e-democracy via "electronic town halls," he became a viable candidate and soon polled even with the major party candidates. Discouraged by a reinvigorated Democratic party ticket of Bill Clinton and Al Gore after the Democratic National Convention, as well as Perot's claim that Republican operatives were attempting to disrupt his daughter's wedding, Perot announced his withdrawal from the campaign. Nevertheless, in September he qualified for all 50 state ballots. On October 1, he announced his intention to run again. He campaigned in 16 states and spent an estimated $65.4 million of his own money. He was allowed to debate with Bush and Clinton in three nationally televised debates. Perot's running mate was Admiral James Stockdale.

In the 1992 election, he received 19% of the popular vote (but no electoral votes), making him the most successful third-party presidential candidate since Theodore Roosevelt in 1912. Some analysts believe that Perot acted as a spoiler in the election, drawing votes away from Bush and allowing Clinton to win many states with less than a majority of votes. After his success, Perot was entitled to receive federal election funding. In 1995 with his new funds, he founded the Reform Party and ran under this party in the 1996 election. He received just 8% of the popular vote in 1996, still a respectable third-party showing. Many people believe this decline was due to his exclusion from the presidential debates, based solely on the preferences of the Democratic and Republican party candidates (this is documented thoroughly in the book Open Debates by George Farah).

In the 2000 presidential election, Perot refused to become involved in the dispute inside the Reform Party between supporters of Pat Buchanan and of John Hagelin. Eventually, Perot endorsed Republican candidate George W. Bush for president.

Perot is a colorful figure, and is both admired and mocked for his somewhat eccentric personality. Editorial cartoonists and comedians often made light of his large ears, squeaky Texas drawl, and penchant for using pie charts to illustrate his points.