Dallas billionaire and former presidential candidate Ross Perot was found dead this Tuesday. Perot had been suffering a five month-long battle with leukemia.
Ross Perot was a renaissance man of sorts, a self-made billionaire, two-time presidential candidate, philanthropist and paperboy are just a few of his titles. But first and foremost, Perot was a Texan. Born in 1930’s Texarkana, he was the third child of Lulu May Ray and Gabriel Ross Perot. Even as a child, Perot was an exceptionally hard worker, earning his first job flinging copies of the Texarkana Gazette. Perot credited his work for the newspaper as the beginning of his entrepreneurial education. His skills as a businessman were truly remarkable. At the young age of 32, he started his empire financed started his empire with $1,000 borrowed from Margot, his wife. As of July, Forbes estimated his wealth at about $4.1 billion dollars, making him the 478th richest man in the world.
And yet, his prowess at business never overshadowed his true passion: fatherhood. Despite a busy schedule and a hectic work-life, family dinners were mandatory in the Perot household. When the children were growing up, he made it a priority to attend the daily dinners, only missing when when he was out of town.
His big heart was also news-worthy.During the Vietnam War, Perot fought to create better conditions for US prisoners of war. In 1969, Perot arranged for Christmas presents to be flown to POW camps in Hanoi, North Vietnam. It was his fundamentally kind character that earned him the Winston Churchill Award in 1986, making him the third American to receive the medallion. The award honored for his efforts on behalf of American POWs in Vietnam in the 1960s.
Most Americans recognize Perot from his political stints. His rather high-pitched southern twang, emulated by Dana Carvey on Saturday Night Live, was just one of the quirks that made him such a fascinating presidential candidate. What is perhaps most impressive about his political work is the attention he drew as an Independent candidate. In 1992, he won nearly 19% of the vote, an outstanding feat for an Independent candidate. Perot ran on a platform of fiscal responsibility and protectionism, and his impressive resume as a business tycoon impressed his supporters.
In 1984, D Magazine named Perot the ‘Dallasite of the year’, writing “We chose Perot for many reasons: his unquestioned generosity, his unswerving morality, his daring determination to cut through the system and outline progress. Perhaps the most inspiring of Perot’s attributes is his dogged faithfulness to Shakespeare’s famous dictum: ‘To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.'” The interview highlighted Perot’s eloquence, as well as his influence on the city of Dallas.
Most younger urbanites in Dallas are perhaps most familiar with his name through the Perot Museum, which is dedicated to inspiring a love of science in children. This morning, the museum posted a heart-felt message; “We at the Perot Museum mourn the passing of Ross Perot, a Texas giant, just as we celebrate his life among us. His legacy as leader will endure and continue to serve as inspiration in fulfilling our mission. Our heartfelt thoughts are with the entire Perot family at this time”.
In 2016, he had an interview with the Dallas News. His parting words in that interview highlighted the deep love and connection he had to his Lone Star State roots: “Texas born. Texas bred. When I die, I’ll be Texas dead. Ha!” Perhaps this is most telling of the fundamentally Texan values that Perot had, values which he held on to throughout his eventful life. His commitment to service, family and leadership will never be forgotten.
He passed away at his home on Strait Lane, in the company of his family.
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