A young Naval officer from Texas who came to Greensburg in 1956 to marry a local girl and went on to become a billionaire and two-time presidential candidate, is being remembered as a kind and thoughtful man who used some of his wealth to help make the region better.
Lt. j.g. H. Ross Perot married Gertrude Margot Birmingham of Greensburg on Sept. 15, 1956, at the First Presbyterian Church in downtown Greensburg. The two met while he was at the Naval Academy at Annapolis, Md., and she was a student at Goucher College in Towson, Md.
Margot’s sister, Nancy Birmingham Jamison of Greensburg, reminisced Tuesday about Ross Perot after learning of his death at 89 from leukemia. The couple had five children and resided in Dallas, where Margot lives.
“I always loved him. He was a wonderful friend — kind, generous and thoughtful,” Jamison said.
Jamison said her sister was married in a “beautiful ceremony,” which was topped off with a reception at the Greensburg Country Club.
”They had a very, very wonderful wedding. Ross was dressed in his Naval uniform,” as were other men in the bridal party, Jamison said.
A picture of the young bride dressed in a cameo satin gown and holding a bouquet of flowers was published in the Greensburg Tribune-Review just two days after the wedding. The story said the couple would go on a honeymoon on Cape Cod and Nantucket Island, Mass., before settling in Wickford, R.I., while Ross Perot was serving aboard an aircraft carrier, the USS Leyte.
The generosity for which the self-made billionaire from Texas was famous extended to Greensburg, as well as Western Pennsylvania.
Retired Westmoreland County Judge Charles Loughran, a childhood friend of Margot Perot, said many people did not realize Ross Perot donated money to the Westmoreland Museum of American Art in Greensburg and the Westmoreland Symphony.
“He was a rather quiet guy. He never wanted any recognition for what he did. He seemed like a very generous guy,” Loughran said.
As for his friend Margot, Loughran said you never would have known she was married to a billionaire.
Ross Perot was supportive of projects at the First Presbyterian Church of Greensburg, where the couple had been to worship, said the Rev. Martin Ankrum, pastor at the church.
Ross Perot also donated $1.3 million in 2004 to Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh for an expanded burn center. His wife and several of her sisters were born at the hospital.
The money from the Perot Foundation was the lead gift for what would become the hospital’s Birmingham Trauma and Burn Center, named after Donald and Gertrude Birmingham. The family connection to Mercy Hospital went back to Margot Perot’s grandfather, who was once on the hospital’s medical staff.