Ross Perot Sr. was one of North Texas’ great business and community leaders. After starting out at IBM, he founded the tech company Electronic Data Systems. Nationally, he later became famous for his politics, but in North Texas, his civic-minded focus on philanthropy is one of his most lasting legacies.
“We had one car, and my mother and I would drop my dad off at work,” businessman and aviator Ross Perot Jr. said today at the Plano Chamber of Commerce. Each morning, his mother would drive his dad to the old IBM building in Turtle Creek. The elder Perot would leave Big Blue in the early 1960s to strike out on his own.
“I remember the night before it [EDS] went public,” he said, “Tomorrow something big is going to happen. We’re going to go public and a lot of people are going to write about us. They’re going to write about how much money we have.'”
Perot told his son that none of that was important. For the elder Perot, the things that mattered were his family and the community. “It was a very loving family,” said Perot Jr. “The five of us knew that we were the most important thing in his life.”
Perot’s focus on the community helped make Plano what it is today.
“He told me, ‘Money is a gift. It’s a tool for you to do good with.'” This, Perot Jr. added, was one of the “many” pieces of good advice his father taught him. Like his father, he wanted to go into business from a young age. The two would always end up talking about business over the dinner table.
“It was always business,” said Perot Jr. “The joke was whenever the newspaper would show up, we’d fight over the business page because we didn’t talk about sports.” Of course, the two followed Roger Staubach and the Dallas Cowboys. Roger Staubach went to the Naval Academy like his dad. “But other than that, we’d always talk about business and our community.” And like his father, Perot Jr. has tried to give back.