Bob Perry dies at 80; Houston real estate magnate who supported GOP candidates

Bob Perry, a Houston real estate magnate who shunned the limelight while generously bankrolling Republican Party candidates and becoming a force in a new era of lavish spending in American politics, has died. He was 80.

Perry died in his sleep Saturday at his home in the Houston area, his family said in a statement released by spokesman Jim McGrath.


The businessman was a fixture of GOP fundraising in Texas — and nationally — dating to President George W. Bush's Texas gubernatorial races in the mid-1990s. His largesse included giving $4.4 million in 2004 to the Swift Boat Veterans campaign that sought to discredit then-Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, now secretary of state.

Perry spent prolifically on politics but did so from a distance. He rarely gave interviews, skipped fancy fundraisers and was a mystery to even many of those who received his help.

Yet he couldn't avoid attention following his financing of the Swift Boat ads, which challenged Kerry's wartime service in Vietnam for which he received five medals. Some Democrats blamed Kerry's slow response to the criticism for sinking his candidacy.

Perry was also a prominent financial supporter of Texas Gov. Rick Perry, but they were not related.

Last year alone, Bob Perry gave more than $18 million to Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney and an organization that backed his candidacy. That ranked him third among all Romney donors, behind only Las Vegas casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and Dallas billionaire Harold Simmons.

Perry's generosity extended to other statehouses, included in Wisconsin last year as Republican Gov. Scott Walker fought efforts for a recall. Perry donated at least $250,000 to help Walker keep his job, making Perry among the largest out-of-state donors.

Bobby Jack Perry was born Oct. 30, 1932, in rural Bosque County, Texas. Raised by a father who was a teacher and later dean of students at Baylor University, Perry started his career as a high school teacher and football coach after studying history at Baylor. But he switched professions in 1968 and established Houston-based Perry Homes, where he made his fortune as one of the largest home builders in Texas.

Survivors include his wife of 52 years, Doylene, four children and 15 grandchildren.