H. Ross Perot, the diminutive Texas billionaire whose 1992 independent presidential campaign added the phrase “that giant sucking sound” to the American political vocabulary, died Tuesday, according to a family spokesman. He was 89.
Perot was an unlikely modern political figure, saddled with easily caricatured voice and ears and with no political campaign experience before he launched his third party bid challenging the incumbency of President George H.W. Bush. Perot received 19% of the popular vote but ultimately had little impact on the electoral-college math of that election, which was won by Democrat Bill Clinton.
Still, Perot’s down-to-earth personality, combined with public perceptions that he was a straight-talking independent, made him a popular figure among those who distrusted political smoothness and disdained the perfectly calibrated quote. He formed the Reform Party in 1995 and mounted another presidential bid in 1996, but that one fell far short of the 1992 effort, effectively ending his run on the national political stage.
Henry Ross Perot was born June 27, 1930, in Texarkana, Texas. He founded Electronic Data Systems in 1962 to sell computer services: billing and payrolls, insurance claims, check-clearing for banks, and eventually the paperwork for Medicare and state Medicaid systems.