“There are but two things worth living for: to do what is worthy of being written; and to write what is worthy of being read.”
Henry Ross Perot (/pəˈroʊ/; born June 27, 1930) is an American businessman best known for being an independent presidential candidate in 1992 and the Reform party presidential candidate in 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.
Perot was born in Texarkana, Texas, to Lula May Perot (née Ray) and Gabriel Ross Perot, a commodity broker specializing in cotton contracts. His patrilineal line traces back to a French-Canadian immigrant to Louisiana, in the 1740s. 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.
After he left the Navy in 1957, Perot became a salesman for International Business Machines. 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 (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 1984General 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 the 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‘ fledglingMicrosoft.
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.
- 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.
- 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 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 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 Pachyrhinosaurus perotorum.