Bob Perry, Prolific GOP Donor, Dead at 80

Editor's note: This story has been updated with remarks from the governor and others on Perry's death.

Bob Perry, a wealthy homebuilder and philanthropist who was among the nation's largest political givers, has died at his home in Nassau Bay, near Houston. He was 80.

His death was confirmed by lobbyist and former state Rep. Neal T. "Buddy" Jones, a family friend and business associate, who said in a statement, "Bob Perry passed away peacefully in his sleep last night. The family asks for privacy right now as they grieve their loss. They look forward to talking with their friends in the coming days."

Jones added a personal note: "Bob Perry was a friend to many, many people all over the United States, and he was a true patriot. He will be sorely missed. Those of us who knew him were blessed by his friendship."

Anthony Holm, a spokesman, also confirmed Perry's death: "Mr. Perry, one of the finest human beings I've ever met, passed away peacefully in his sleep last night." 

Perry was a major source of campaign cash for conservative candidates — a mega-donor over time to Texas Govs. George W. Bush and Rick Perry (no relation) and, of late, a $45,000 contributor to nascent Land Commissioner hopeful George P. Bush. On rare occasions he supported Democratic officeholders — almost always those who represented Houston, including state Rep. Sylvester Turner and late state Sen. Mario Gallegos.  He was also a leading backer of Republican political action committees, causes and organizations like the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, which questioned Vietnam veteran John Kerry’s military service when he was the Democratic candidate for president against Bush in 2004.

He later contributed generously to the Economic Freedom Fund and, in 2010 and 2011, to the Super PACs American Crossroads and Restore Our Future.

According to the Center for Public Integrity, he gave $23.5 million to Super PACs in the last election cycle, $1.5 million to Gov. Perry in the 2010 election and $1.9 million to Republican candidates in Texas during the 2012 election cycle. From 2000 to 2010, he gave $28 million to Texas candidates and causes and another $38 million to candidates and groups outside of Texas, according to a Texas Tribune analysis.

Perry was also a major donor to The Texas Tribune, contributing $110,000 in 2012.

Perry was born in Bosque County, earned a college degree from Baylor University and taught high school history and coached before changing careers and going to work in construction and homebuilding. He formed Perry Homes in 1968.

He and his wife, Doylene, have four grown children.

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UPDATED, as remarks and remembrances come in:

Gov. Rick Perry: "Bob Perry was an exceptional man of great faith who believed strongly in everything he put his mind and soul into, and nothing more so than his family. His astonishing success story as a businessman serves as an inspiration to anyone who ever dreamed of bigger things, and his selfless dedication to the people and causes he believed in serves as an inspiration to anyone who has ever felt the call to get involved. Bob Perry left his state, and his country, in a better place than where he found it, and he will be profoundly missed by us all. Anita and I send our deepest condolences to his wife, Doylene, his children, his extended family and friends."

U.S. Rep. Pete Gallego, D-Alpine: “Mr. Perry was a true, old-fashioned gentleman. Though he and I disagreed regularly over the course of my years in the Legislature, Mr. Perry was always unfailingly polite and a man of principle. He was a strong advocate for and never afraid to invest in causes in which he believed. A proponent of immigration reform, he used his influence to attain bipartisan support. He has certainly left his mark on the State of Texas.”

State Rep. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, on behalf of the Texas House Republican Caucus: "I am truly saddened to learn of the passing of Mr. Perry. He was a true Texas gentleman, an American Patriot and a leader in the modern conservative movement.  He was fearless when it came to principles, politics and public policy and Texas is a better place because of the legacy of Bob Perry. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Perry family."

Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville: "I join the family and countless numbers of friends of Bob Perry in mourning his passing.  He was a godly man, and he was one of my personal heroes.  Over the course of my career in the legislature, we had many wonderful opportunities to develop a meaningful friendship; he will be sorely missed. I also had the opportunity to work with Mr. Perry on humanitarian issues.  The love he had for the less fortunate was tremendous.  In his life, he made an impact on thousands of people, including young orphans throughout South and Central America.  I personally saw the fruits of his labors as we visited Casa Hogar orphanage in Matamoros, Mexico, which neighbors my Senate district in Brownsville.  His generosity there will be felt for generations to come. Mr. Perry was a humble man who gave unselfishly.  All of us can learn a lot from this man, who belonged to a conservative political party, but whose heart and generosity guided his personal policy position.   His legacy will be one of service to God's people.  Because of his good works on Earth, I know he is now in union with our God. I extend my personal sympathies to Mrs. Perry and the Perry family."

Dick Weekley, on behalf of Texans for Lawsuit Reform: “We are shocked and saddened at the loss of our dear and good friend Bob Perry.  Bob was truly a Texas giant whose legendary compassion, vision and commitment to principle has changed the face of Texas and improved the lives of thousands of people. No challenge was too great for Bob to take on when he believed it was the right thing to do.  He was a champion of his deeply held faith and his conservative convictions, fighting for the principles of freedom and liberty as he worked to build a bigger and better Texas. Bob joined the battle for tort reform in Texas from the beginning.  He understood the urgency of assuring that doctors remain in the state and making our courts fair, honest and worthy of public respect.  His quiet commitment to his own community in Houston as well as to orphans and children in Mexico has been an inspiration to many of us for many years.  Bob’s passing is a great loss for Texas, for TLR and for our nation.  We will miss him.”

U.S. Sen. John Cornyn: "Bob Perry cared deeply about Texas and America and he will be missed not only in Texas, but around the globe.  Born in a one-room house outside of Waco, his rise from humble beginnings will always be a testament to the limitless opportunities of our country.  Despite reaching the pinnacle of business success, Bob never lost touch with his roots.  A quiet, private man, he helped the neglected and the voiceless through the orphanages he sponsored throughout Latin America.  Sandy and I grieve with his family and our fellow Texans over the loss of this great man."

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