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Ross Perot, Billionaire Businessman And Former Presidential Candidate, Dies At 89

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Ross Perot ran for president twice, in 1992 and 1996.
AP

Ross Perot ran for president twice, in 1992 and 1996.

Updated at 12:55 p.m. ET

Ross Perot, the colorful Texas billionaire businessman who twice ran for president as a third-party candidate, died early Tuesday at his home in Dallas. He was 89.

Perot, who had battled leukemia, was surrounded by family members when he died, his family said in a statement.

"In business and in life, Ross was a man of integrity and action," the statement read. "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."

Henry Ross Perot was born in 1930 in Texarkana, Texas. He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and worked for several years at IBM. He went on to make his fortune in the tech industry, founding computer services company Electronic Data Systems in 1962 and Perot Systems in 1988.

In 1979, he famously financed a rescue mission for two EDS employees who had been detained in Iran.

He ran for president in 1992 as an independent, with the campaign slogan "Ross for Boss." He emphasized his political outsider status in the lead-up to the vote. "Now, just for the record, I don't have any spin doctors, I don't have any speechwriters. Probably shows," he joked during the campaign.

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Perot won nearly 19 percent of the popular vote in the race, which was ultimately won by Bill Clinton.

"He burst on the scene as something of a phenomenon," NPR Washington editor and correspondent Ron Elving reports, adding that Perot received "the most votes for anyone other than the Republican or Democratic nominee since Teddy Roosevelt back in 1912." He performed particularly well in rural counties, Elving says, though he didn't win any states.

Perot founded the Reform Party and ran for president again in 1996. "I have no desire to be in public life, as far as having to live up there in a bubble and put up with all this stuff, you know, I think I'd rather have heart surgery without anesthetic, but having said that, if the members in 1996 insist that I run again, I will do it for them," he said prior to the vote. "If that's what we have to do to shock the system, and to get the changes, we'll do it."

He won more than 8 percent of the popular vote.

Both times he ran, his platforms were "centered on campaign reform, protecting American workers from outsourcing, and cutting the national debt," his website states. Perot was particularly outspoken against the North American Free Trade Agreement, and frequently referred to the "giant sucking sound" it would create.

In 2000, Perot opted not to run and the Reform Party went through a nominating process — and Elving notes that "one of the people who got interested in that and briefly ran in it was Donald Trump."

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