The World’s Tallest Man Died While Appearing in Michigan, 1940
He was born in 1918 and died in 1940 at the age of 22.
Robert Wadlow was historically the tallest man in the world, with his top height at almost nine feet tall (8 feet, 11.1 inches) and a weight of 439 pounds.
Robert suffered from hyperplasia in the pituitary gland, which gave his growth hormones almost superhuman elements.
While an elementary school student, he had a special desk made just for him; when he graduated high school, he was 8 feet, 4 inches. His body required leg braces to handle his lankiness and weight, even though he had little feeling below the waist.
His dream was to study law and become an attorney, but with the attention and notoriety he was receiving, Robert sadly wound up as an attraction in the Ringling Brothers/Barnum & Bailey Circus.
He was 18 years old when he joined the circus and he soon became one of the world’s most famous celebrities..…or as some would say, attractions. He was approached by the International Shoe Company to hawk shoes for them, which he did with a specially-made pair of size 37AA.
All this time, there was only one other man in the world taller than Robert, and that was John "Bud" Rogan. But in 1939, just one year before Robert passed away, he actually grew taller than Rogan, thus copping the title of “World’s Tallest” person.
It was on the 4th of July 1940 when Robert was appearing in Michigan at the Manistee National Forest Festival. He was wearing an inferior brand of leg brace, which ended up rubbing constantly against the skin on his ankle, tearing it open, and letting infection seep in. This may sound fixable, but Robert had an autoimmune disorder which didn’t successfully stave off infection. A blood transfusion and surgery failed and he died on the night of July 15 while asleep. Upon his death, it was determined that he had never stopped growing; if he had lived, he very well could have topped ten feet.
Robert Wadlow is buried in Oakwood Cemetery in the town he was born: Alton, Illinois.