Billionaire and former presidential candidate Ross Perot is dead at 89

Independent presidential candidate and wealthy philanthropist Ross Perot has passed away at the age of 89, after a battle with leukemia.

Perot passed away on Tuesday, survived by his wife Margot, five children, and 16 grandchildren.

“Ross was a man of integrity and action,” read a statement from a family spokesman. “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.”

An early tech entrepreneur, Perot founded his first company – Electronic Data Systems – in 1962 with $1,000 of his own savings. Two decades later, General Motors would purchase a controlling interest in the company for $2.4 billion.

Perot is best known for mounting the most successful independent presidential campaign in history in 1992. Running on a platform of balancing the budget and ending the foreign outsourcing of jobs, Perot captured 18.9 percent of the popular vote, drawing support from moderates on both sides of the political spectrum. Republicans, however, accused Perot of siphoning votes away from then-incumbent President George H.W. Bush and facilitating a victory for Bill Clinton.

Perot established the Reform Party and ran for the presidency again in 1996, but failed to recapture his 1992 momentum and won eight percent of the vote.

Endorsing Republicans in every election since, bar 2016, Perot returned to the world of business, selling Perot Systems to Dell for $3.9 billion in 2009. Though he remained silent on political issues in his later years, Perot was an outspoken activist for military veterans for much of his life, lobbying politicians to bring home prisoners of war he believed were left behind in Vietnam, and later advocating for Gulf War veterans.

He would eventually be honored for this activism, receiving an award from then-Secretary of Veteran Affairs James Peake in 2009. Peake commented at the time that Perot’s advocacy embodied “the very spirit of America.”