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News Break: Former US presidential candidate and Texan billionaire Ross Perot passes on at age 89


News Break: Former US presidential candidate and Texan billionaire Ross Perot passes on at age 89

Ross Perot, Brash Texas Billionaire who run for President has died at age 89, Ghana showbiz can report.

The wiry Texas gadfly who made a fortune in computer services, amazed the nation with audacious paramilitary missions to Vietnam and Iran, and ran for president in 1992 and 1996 with populist talk of restoring Norman Rockwell’s America, died on Tuesday at his home in Dallas.

The cause was leukemia, a family spokesman, James Fuller, said.

They called him the man from Texarkana, but he really came out of an era — the Great Depression, World War II and the exuberant postwar years — when boys had paper routes, folks tuned in to the radio and patriots rolled up their sleeves for Uncle Sam and built innovative companies and a powerful nation.

“Most people give up just when they’re about to achieve success,” Mr. Perot liked to say. “They quit on the one-yard line. They give up at the last minute of the game one foot from a winning touchdown.”

Mr. Perot during an appearance on the Sunday morning CBS News program “Face the Nation” in April 1992. At the time, he was discussing a possible run for the presidency as an independent candidate.

In 1979 he staged a commando raid that he asserted had freed two of his employees, and thousands of criminals and political prisoners, from captivity in revolutionary Iran.

And in 1992 he became one of the most unlikely candidates ever to run for president. He had never held public office, and he seemed all wrong, like a cartoon character sprung to life: an elfin 5 feet 6 inches and 144 pounds, with a 1950s crew cut; a squeaky, nasal country-boy twang; and ears that stuck out like Alfred E. Neuman’s on a Mad magazine cover. Stiff-necked, cantankerous, impetuous, often sentimental, he was given to homespun epigrams: “If you see a snake, just kill it. Don’t appoint a committee on snakes.”

Under the banner “United We Stand America,” he spent $65 million of his billions in a campaign that featured innovative half-hour infomercials about himself and his ideas. They were popular, with ratings that sometimes surpassed those of prime-time sitcoms. Ignoring negative newspaper and magazine articles, he laid siege to radio and television talk shows. Switchboards lit up with calls from people wanting to volunteer.

Before long, millions were responding to his calls to cut government deficits, red tape and waste, to begin rebuilding the crumbling cities and to restore his vision of America: the small-town life idealized in Rockwell’s homey portraits of ballpark patriotism, barbershop wisdom and flag-draped Main Street, a world away from corrupt Washington.

Mr. Perot, running as an independent, sparred with President George Bush and Gov. Bill Clinton of Arkansas on Oct. 13, 1992, in a presidential debate broadcast from the University of Richmond in Virginia.CreditAssociated Press

Improbably, he surged in the polls while the Republican incumbent, George Bush, and the Democrat, Bill Clinton, trained their fire on each other. Polls showed that Mr. Perot’s support came from across the spectrum, from Democrats and Republicans, conservatives and liberals, mostly from the middle class. Citizen drives got him on the ballot in all 50 states. He was on the cover of Time magazine.

But at the peak of his popularity, he unexpectedly dropped out of the race. Months later, he jumped back in, saying his withdrawal had been prompted by Republican “dirty tricks” to sabotage his daughter’s wedding with faked compromising photographs.

He did surprisingly well in three presidential debates, often mocking the “gridlock” in Washington. “It’s not the Republicans’ fault, of course, and it’s not the Democrats’ fault,” he said in the second round. “Somewhere out there there’s an extraterrestrial that’s doing this to us, I guess.”

A portrait of Mr. Perot published in the 1949 Texarkana Junior College yearbook. After two years at the college, he won appointment to the United States Naval Academy.

It also led to claims by some Republicans, including the president’s son and future president George W. Bush, that Mr. Perot’s candidacy had cost President Bush a second term — a contention refuted by many political analysts, who pointed to, among other things, exit polls showing that Mr. Perot’s strength had not come disproportionately from defecting Republicans.

In 1996, Mr. Perot ran again, this time on the new Reform Party ticket, but he fared poorly. By then the epigrams had paled, and voters suspected that his business strengths, the risk-taking and stubborn autocratic personality, might not serve a president constrained by Congress and public opinion. And by then more was known of Mr. Perot, who could be thin-skinned and meanspirited, who had subjected employees to moral codes and lie detector tests, who was drawn to conspiracy theories and had hired private detectives to chase his suspicions.

His candidacy was crippled when a commission refused to let him join debates between President Clinton and the Republican nominee, Senator Bob Dole, on the grounds that he did not have a realistic chance of being elected. He won only 8 percent of the vote. But, as he liked to say, “Failures are like skinned knees: painful but superficial.”

He was born Henry Ray Perot on June 27, 1930, in the East Texas border city of Texarkana to Gabriel and Lulu May Ray Perot. His father was a cotton broker and a horse trader. The boy did well in local schools, but teachers said his good grades had more to do with persistence than with superior intelligence.

He began working at 7, selling garden seeds door to door and later breaking horses (and his nose) for his father at a dollar a head. When he was 12, he began delivering The Texarkana Gazette on horseback in poor neighborhoods, soliciting subscriptions and building his route from scratch for extra commissions. He did so well that his boss tried to cut his commissions, but he backed off when the boy went to the publisher.

He changed his name to Henry Ross Perot in honor of a brother, Gabriel Ross Perot Jr., who died, just a toddler, in 1927. The family pronounced the surname PEE-roe, but in his 20s he changed that, too, making it puh-ROE, because, he said, he got tired of correcting people. He called himself Ross; years later, the news media added the initial “H” at the beginning of his name, but he never liked it.

He joined the Boy Scouts at 12 and in little more than a year was an Eagle Scout, an extraordinary achievement that became part of his striver’s legend. After two years at Texarkana Junior College, he won appointment to the United States Naval Academy, where, despite academic mediocrity, he was elected class president and graduated in 1953.

Mr. Perot aboard a chartered jet airliner in Tokyo in December 1969 as he sought to deliver food, medicine and gifts to prisoners of war in North Vietnam. The mission was rejected by Hanoi, but it embarrassed the North Vietnamese government and led to better treatment for some prisoners.
Source: New York Time



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