Perot went on to establish another computer-services company, Perot Systems Corp. He retired as CEO in 2000 and was succeeded by his son, Ross Perot Jr. In 2009, Dell Inc. bought Perot Systems.
In September 2011, Forbes magazine estimated Perot’s wealth at $3.5 billion and ranked him No. 91 on its list of richest Americans.
Perot was not immune to mistakes in business. His biggest might have been a 1971 investment in duPont Glore Forgan, then one of the biggest brokerage houses on Wall Street. The administration of President Richard Nixon asked Perot to save the company to head off an investor panic, and he also poured money into another troubled brokerage, Walston & Co., but wound up losing much of his $100 million investment.
It was during the Nixon administration that Perot became involved in the issue of U.S. prisoners of war in Southeast Asia. Perot said Secretary of State Henry Kissinger asked him to lead a campaign to improve treatment of POWs held in North Vietnam. Perot chartered two jets to fly medical supplies and the wives of POWs to Southeast Asia. They were not allowed into North Vietnam, but the trip attracted enormous media attention.
After their release in 1973, some prisoners said conditions in the camps had improved after the failed missions.
In 1979, the Iranian government jailed two EDS executives and Perot vowed to win their release.
“Ross came to the prison one day and said, ‘We’re going to get you out,'” one of the men, Paul Chiapparone, told The Associated Press. “How many CEOs would do that today?”
Perot recruited retired U.S. Army Special Forces Col. Arthur “Bull” Simons to lead a commando raid on the prison. A few days later, the EDS executives walked free after the shah’s regime fell and mobs stormed the prison. Simons’ men sneaked the executives out of the country and into Turkey. The adventure was recalled in Ken Follett’s best-selling book “On Wings of Eagles” and a TV miniseries.
In later years, Perot pushed the Veterans Affairs Department to study neurological causes of Gulf War syndrome, a mysterious illness reported by many soldiers who served in the 1991 Persian Gulf war. He scoffed at officials who blamed the illnesses on stress — “as if they are wimps” — and paid for additional research.
Perot received a special award from the VA for his support of veterans and the military in 2009.
In Texas, Perot led commissions on education reform and crime. He was given many honorary degrees and awards for business success and patriotism.
While he worked at Perot Systems in suburban Dallas, entire hallways were filled with memorabilia from soldiers and POWs that Perot had helped. His personal office was dominated by large paintings of his wife and five children and bronze sculptures by Frederic Remington.
Several original Norman Rockwell paintings hung in the waiting area, and Perot once told a visiting reporter that he tried to live by Rockwell’s ethics of hard, honest work and family.