They don’t make ’em like this anymore.
Ross Perot, the self-made billionaire who ran for president in 1992 as an independent and pulled in nearly 20 million votes, has died after a battle with leukemia. He was 89.
Perot started out in the computer business in the early 1960s, founding Electronic Data Systems Corp. in 1962 with $1,000 he had saved. He sold control of it to General Motors for $2.5 billion in 1984. He started up another company, Perot Systems Corp., in 1988, which was sold to Dell for $3.9 billion in 2005.
“In business and in life, Ross was a man of integrity and action. A true American patriot and a man of rare vision, principle and deep compassion, he touched the lives of countless people through his unwavering support of the military and veterans and through his charitable endeavors,” James Fuller, a representative for the Perot family, said in a statement.
Perot ran for president twice, in 1992 and 1996, and in his first go-around, he upset the apple cart. He garnered nearly 19% of the vote, while the winners, Bill Clinton and Al Gore, took in just 43% and the losers, George H.W. Bush and Dan Quayle, got just 37.5%.
Perot, at just 5-foot-6-inches tall, had a commanding presence. He was mimicked by comedian Dana Carvey on “Saturday Night Live,” repeatedly uttering a phrase he made famous in his many contentious debates, “Can I finish?”
He was mocked for picking retired Adm. James Stockdale, who also famously said in one debate, “Why am I here?”
Perot was famous for offering folksy — and common sense — solutions to complex problems, including education reform and U.S. foreign policy, as well as the then-swelling federal budget,
“If someone as blessed as I am is not willing to clean out the barn, who will?” he said with his trademark Texarkana twang during his 1992 run.
Perot’s was truly a grassroots campaign. He appeared in February 1992 on CNN’s “Larry King Live” and, asked if was running for president, stated firmly, “No.” But as the interview went on, he said he might run “if you, the people, are that serious” and “register me in 50 states.”
Within three months, Perot and his supporters had put him on the ballot in all 50 states. He garnered massive coverage as a plain-talking Texan, contrasting with the staid Bush and Clinton, aka “Slick Willy.” But by July, Perot felt he couldn’t win and said he wasn’t running anymore.
Perot jumped back in on October 1, just 33 days before Election Day, and earned a spot on the debate stage with Bush and Clinton. In one debate, he uttered another perfect phrase when he predicted that the new North American Free Trade Agreement would create a “giant sucking sound” as it yanked U.S. jobs to Mexico.
“In an interview with CBS’s ’60 Minutes’ that aired nine days before the election, Perot said the real reason he had dropped out in July was that he had learned of a plan by Republican leaders, whom he wouldn’t name, ‘to have a computer-created false photo of my daughter, Carolyn, that they were going to give the press shortly before her wedding to embarrass her.’ He offered no proof,” Bloomberg News reported.
After he lost in 1992, Bush blamed Perot. “I think he cost me the election, and I don’t like him,” he said in “41,” a documentary that HBO aired in 2012.
In his later years, Perot became a leading philanthropist, giving a $50 million gift in 2008 for the construction of the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas.