Ross Perot was born in 1930 in Texarkana, Texas. Although the family lived in modest circumstances, Perot has often stated that he was born rich because of his parents. Beginning at the age of seven, Perot worked at various jobs throughout his boyhood, including breaking horses; selling Christmas cards, magazines, and garden seeds; buying and selling bridles, saddles, horses, and calves; delivering newspapers; and collecting for classified ads.
He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1953, and spent the next four years on a destroyer and an aircraft carrier.
Upon his honorable discharge in 1957, Perot went to work for IBM’s data processing division as a salesman. In 1962—at the age of 32—his wife, Margot, who worked as a teacher, gave him $1,000 in savings to help start his one-man data processing firm. Electronic Data Systems (EDS) designed, installed, and operated computer systems for large companies. In 1984, Perot sold EDS to General Motors for $2.5 billion; four years later, he launched Perot Systems Corp., a computer service company.
In 1969, the U.S. government asked Perot to help improve the treatment of American prisoners of war in Vietnam. For his efforts, Perot received the Medal for Distinguished Public Service, the Pentagon’s highest civilian award. When two EDS employees were taken hostage by the Iranian government in 1979, Perot directed a successful rescue mission. This story was later told in Ken Follett’s bestseller, On the Wings of Eagles.
In 1994, Perot established a watchdog group called United We Stand America, and the following year he ran for president on the Reform Party ticket against the Republican incumbent, President George H. W. Bush, and Democratic challenger Bill Clinton, then governor of Arkansas. Perot ended up winning nearly 19 percent of the popular vote—the most won by a third-party presidential candidate since Theodore Roosevelt in 1912.
Perot wrote seven books, including Ross Perot: My Life & The Principles for Success, published in 1996. He often told young people, “Concentrate on what you do best, and success will come to you.”