Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot on Monday named retired Vice Adm. James B. Stockdale, a former Navy combat pilot and decorated Vietnam War hero, as his temporary running mate in a possible independent bid for the White House.
The move clears the way for volunteers to mount petition drives on Perot's behalf to get him on the ballot; 27 states, including California, require independent candidates to name running mates on their ballot petitions.
Perot, the maverick Dallas businessman whose personal fortune has been estimated at $3 billion, has said he will run for President as an independent if volunteers can qualify him for the November ballot in all 50 states.
Stockdale, 68, retired from the Navy because of his combat wounds in 1979. He is now a senior research fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, a conservative think tank.
In 1965, Stockdale was shot down over North Vietnam and spent more than seven years in a prisoner-of-war camp. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for trying to kill himself to keep guards from getting information he feared would jeopardize his fellow prisoners.
Perot, 61, said he will name a permanent running mate by the time the Democratic and Republican parties hold their political conventions this summer.
"Adm. Stockdale is an outstanding American patriot who has served his country in peace and in war," Perot said. "I very much appreciate his participation in this effort to let the American people be heard."
A Perot spokeswoman in Dallas denied reports that Boston University President John Silber had turned down an offer to be Perot's running mate. Silber, a combative and ferociously articulate Democrat, lost a race for the Massachusetts governorship in 1990.
In an interview, Stockdale said that he and Perot are longtime friends and that he has no "great ambitions or unrealistic beliefs" to remain through November as Perot's running mate. But he pledged to do so if Perot wants him.
The retired admiral, who led the first U.S. bombing raid on North Vietnam in 1964, said he met Perot through Stockdale's wife, Sybil, who worked with Perot and others to call attention to mistreatment of U.S. prisoners by their North Vietnamese captors.
The Stockdales co-authored a book, "In Love and War," that was turned into a television movie by NBC in 1987.