MIGHTY CULTURE
Jason Davis

Honoring the life of one of the 'richest and most beloved men in America'

Ross Perot, the self-made billionaire, philanthropist and third-party presidential candidate, died July 9, 2019, at his home in Texas. He was 89.

Henry Ross Perot was born in Texarkana, Texas, on June 27, 1930. His story is the epitome of hard work, and one that has rarely been equaled: He rose from Depression-era poverty to become one of the richest and most beloved men in America.

Read the tributes, the stories, interviews, memoirs, and what pops up most, the one constant is that Perot never stopped working.


As a boy, he delivered newspapers. He joined the Boy Scouts at 12, then made Eagle Scout in just 13 months. In his US Naval Academy yearbook, a classmate wrote: "As president of the Class of '53 he listened to all gripes, then went ahead and did something about them." At 25, he personally "dug his father's grave with a shovel and filled it as a final tribute to him." At 27, after leaving the Navy, he went to work at IBM where he soon became a top salesman. One year, he met the annual sales quota by the second week of January. At 32, he'd left IBM and formed his own company, Electronic Data Systems. By 38, when he took the company public, he was suddenly worth $350 million. In the 80s, Perot sold the company for billions, then started another company, Perot Systems Corp., that later sold for billions more.

Ross Perot, 1986.

"Every day he came to work trying to figure out how he could help somebody," said Ross Perot Jr., in an interview.

And that's another thing that pops up, another constant: Perot's connection to people, to his employees, to POWs in North Vietnam and their families, to Gulf War Veterans suffering from a mysterious illness, and to the millions of Americans he reached in self-paid 30-minute TV spots in the 90s when he ran for president.

"Ross Perot epitomized the entrepreneurial spirit and the American creed," said Former President George W. Bush, in a statement. "He gave selflessly of his time and resources to help others in our community, across our country, and around the world. He loved the U.S. military and supported our service members and veterans. Most importantly, he loved his dear wife, children, and grandchildren."

That's the last thing, the most important thing — his family.

"I want people to know about Dad's twinkle in his eyes," said daughter Nancy Perot. "He always gave us the biggest hugs. We never doubted that we were the most important things in his life."

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.