Perot, H. Ross

Perot, H. Ross

Perot, H. Ross (Henry Ross Perot), 1930–2019, American business executive and political leader, b. Texarkana, Tex., as Henry Ray Perot, grad. Annapolis, 1953. In 1957 he resigned his naval commission and became a salesman for IBM. In 1962 he founded Electronic Data Systems (EDS), one of the first computer data service companies. In 1984, he sold EDS to General Motors, but retained an interest in the company. Bitterly critical of General Motors management, he sold his remaining interests in EDS to GM for $700 million (1986). He diversified into real estate, gas, and oil and in 1988 started a new computer service company, Perot Systems.

Perot came to national attention during the Iran hostage crisis (1979), when he funded an operation that rescued two of his employees from an Iranian prison. In 1992, he emerged as an independent candidate for president, expressing serious concern over the national debt. After a departure from the race in July, which alienated much of his support, he returned in October and finished third in the general election with nearly one fifth of the popular vote. He subsequently was an outspoken opponent of the ratification of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

In 1995 Perot founded a new national political party, the Reform party, as an alternative to the Democratic and Republican parties. As the party's 1996 presidential candidate, he again finished third in the presidential race, but with a much reduced popular vote. While Perot remained a significant force in the party, during the late 1990s his role was gradually eclipsed by the Reform governor of Minnesota, Jesse Ventura.


See K. Follett, On Wings of Eagles (1983); D. Levin, Irreconcilable Differences: Ross Perot versus General Motors (1989).

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Perot, H. (Henry) Ross

(1930–  ) business executive, public figure; born in Texarkana, Texas. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy (1953) but resigned from the Navy as soon as his required tour of duty ended (1953–57). He went to work as a salesman for International Business Machines (IBM) and soon realized that his future lay not in hardware but in the expertise behind using the growing capabilities of computers. He quit IBM and founded Electronic Data Systems (EDS) in Dallas (1962), becoming a multimillionaire by providing the software and services for organizations that owned computers, a billionaire after he took the company public in 1968. In 1969 he commenced his efforts to obtain the release of American POWs in Vietnam; in 1978 he organized a commando brigade that helped to rescue two EDS employees from jail in Teheran, Iran (an escapade popularized in a book and movie, On Wings of Eagles.) He sold his company to General Motors in 1984 and went over to join in the management, but he soon fell out with the top executives there, so resigned (1986) and started Perot Systems (1988). In 1992—by then one of the richest men in the world, with personal assets of $3.5 billion—he presented himself as a populist candidate for the presidency of the United States against Bill Clinton and George Bush; reviving an organization he had founded during the Vietnam War, "United We Stand," as his own third party, he ran a controversial campaign but ended up with 19 percent of the popular vote.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.