Born in Texarkana, Texas, Ross Perot moved to Dallas in 1956 with his teacher wife, Margot, and set about selling IBM computers. In 1962, Margot lent him $1,000 and he set up his own company, Electronic Data Systems, which performed modestly until it won a contract to deal with federal welfare payments. By 1992, he employed around 70,000 people, and Forbes magazine named him that year as America's 19th richest man, with a fortune of $2.4bn.
In 1992, he entered politics and sold himself as a reluctant hero who would "do his duty as a patriot" if America gave him the "thankless task".
His blue eyes, jug ears, diminutive stature and high-pitched Texan accent marked him out as a character distinct from Bush and Clinton. Surrounding himself with the trappings of American-style celebrity, he was able to avoid spelling out a single policy.
An eccentric streak emerged. He banned his employees from growing beards, said he would fire them for adultery, and believed there was a huge, secret government cabal responsible for a drugs and arms-running ring. Campaign volunteers were required to sign loyalty oaths, and any failure to toe the Perot line led to investigation by a team of "thought police" based in Dallas.
After withdrawing from the 1992 race, he was derisorily nicknamed "the Yellow Ross of Texas", which bruised his ego and prompted him to make immediate comeback preparations. When he announced his re-entry in October, Bill Clinton was at 51 per cent in the polls, George Bush at 35 and Perot at 8. His homespun, grassroots appeal had been lost - he now appeared merely egocentric and stubborn - but he won 19 per cent of the popular vote, the best showing for a third candidate since Teddy Roosevelt in 1912.
"They've got a point. I don't have any experience in running up a $4,000bn debt." (After being accused of political inexperience by the Bush camp.)
"I'm a businessman. I'm not going to pay for the phone call for some fella who says `Don't do it.' " (On his toll-free line which only registered Yes votes for his candidacy.)
"There is no question that you have changed politics in this country, and it is a change for the better." (To his campaign volunteers after announcing his withdrawal from the presidential race in July 1992.)
"They're just trying to prove their manhood." (Complaining about two female journalists asking him difficult questions, October 1992.)
"Our government is a mess. Everybody in Washington makes excuses, but nobody takes responsibility." (On re-entering the presidential race, October 1992.)
"There will be pain everywhere. It's like World War II. We had shared sacrifice. We'll all have to do it together. I can't do it for you." (On his plan to cut the budget deficit, October 1992.)