OPINION: The Unknown Perot (7/12/2019)

The Unknown Perot

An Editorial by Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller
July 12, 2019

As Texas and the nation mourns the loss of H. Ross Perot, many might remember him as a tech business tycoon, a quiet philanthropist, an unsuccessful candidate for President, or perhaps as an American patriot.  But I’ll bet you there’s one word that rarely appeared in the many obituaries written for Mr. Perot this week:  agriculturalist.

Born in Texarkana on June 27, 1930, Henry Ray Perot came from a rich agricultural heritage.  In Depression-era Texarkana, straddling the Texas-Arkansas border, you worked for either the railroad or in agriculture.  Perot’s father, G. Ross, was a cotton trader.  A friend of Perot once told me that some of Perot’s earliest memories were watching his father in his store trading cotton.  From these early memories, the future billionaire learned the value of a commodity; the value of selling something that people needed.

He also learned the value of ethics.  Perot used to say his father taught him to always leave a few nickels on the table at the end of a deal.  Never take all you could, but just enough to make a good profit. If you always leave a little something for the other guy they’d feel like they got a great deal and always come back.

It was a lesson H. Ross Perot never forgot.  It was one he later used to build his billion-dollar tech business empire. 

His father was so influential in his life that as a teenager, Perot changed his middle name from Ray to Ross as a sign of respect.

Growing up in the rich agricultural region around Texarkana, many of Perot’s first jobs were in agriculture.  By age 8, he was breaking horses (along with his nose and a few bones) for a dollar a horse.  Later, his father would let him buy and sell horses.  Perot became an avid horseman – even riding his horse through the halls of his prestigious private school – and continued to enjoy riding the rest of his life.

Despite his wealth, success, and time spent on the world stage, H. Ross Perot never forgot his deep roots in Texas and in agriculture. 

The values that Perot exhibited all his life – hard work, devotion to family, patriotism and a commitment to serve others – can still be found in rural Texas today. 

And while there’s not many kids riding horses through their school hallways anymore, there’s still a generation of rural Texas kids growing up around agriculture and learning the same valuable lessons Perot learned. 

As a former ag teacher myself, I’ve seen the quality of these kids being reared in the time-honored traditions found in our agricultural heritage.  Visit any FFA gathering, spend time at a junior rodeo or watch any child showing cattle at a county fair and, eventually, you’ll see the next great leader of Texas. 

And then you might understand what Perot and his father understood:  that Texas agriculture matters.  Not just for this generation – but the next.

Texans will miss H. Ross Perot.  Not because of his success, his money or his politics.  We will miss him because he was a true son of Texas.  He embodied so many of the values that made – and still make – Texas one of the last great places on earth. 

Rest in peace, Mr. Perot.



Commissioner Sid Miller is the 12th Texas Commissioner of Agriculture. He was elected in 2014 and re-elected to the post in 2018. He also served in the Texas House of Representatives and most recently was chosen as president of the Southern United States Trade Association and the Southern Association of State Departments of Agriculture. He is actively engaged on issues of agricultural trade and border security at the state and national levels.


For more information visit the Texas Department of Agriculture website at www.texasagriculture.gov or contact Communications Director Mark Dallas Loeffler at 512.475.1669