For millions of Americans, Ross Perot was a quirky Texas businessman who used his outsider status and western adages to — perhaps — spoil the 1992 presidential race.
Or the Texarkana-born magnate and philanthropist was comedy gold for comedians such as Dana Carvey, whose famous Perot parody became a staple of Saturday Night Live throughout the 1990s.
But for Greenwood resident Mike Games, the oddball IBM salesman and U.S. Navy veteran who died on Tuesday at the age of 89 was an inspirational leader and charismatic beacon of hope.
“This guy changed my life,” said Games, who now works at Inn on the Square. “He was bigger than real.”
In the early 1980s, Games took a job with Electric Data Systems, the information technology and equipment services company that Perot founded in 1962. For the next 30 years, Games would move through EDS’ ranks, putting him at corporate functions alongside the CEO. General Motors bought a controlling interest in EDS in 1984, but Games recalls Perot’s presence at many events.
It’s also while at EDS that Games met his wife, Mare.
“This guy made a culture. “You had to wear a suit because if people were going to trust you with their data, you had to look trustworthy,” Games said.
Perot ran for president twice, first in 1992 financing an independent campaign and then in 1996 as the Reform Party candidate.
In 1992, Perot took 18.9% of the popular vote, but none in the Electoral College. The showing made him America’s most popular third-party candidate since Theodore Roosevelt in 1912, but some accused him of giving Bill Clinton enough momentum to beat George H.W. Bush.
In 1996, Perot claimed 8.4% of the popular vote.
With his outsider status and freewheeling campaign strategy, Games said Perot was genuine in his belief that America could be turned around with him at the helm.
“I was proud with the votes that he got. Perot had the country in mind, he didn’t have caucus or a backing. He did it and built his backing,” Games said. “Not only did he believe in himself, he believed in the country. He was frustrated, like a lot of us. When you get fed up and tired with the way things are, Perot said, ‘we can do better, and I’m the guy that could do it.’”