Robert Pershing Wadlow
Robert Pershing Wadlow (Feb. 22, 1918 - July 15, 1940) was the tallest man in recorded history and about the same height as the biblical Goliath. Wadlow grew to 8' 11.1" tall, and was still growing when he died from a foot infection caused by ill-fitting shoes.
Many local townspeople remembered him long after his untimely death for his upbeat personality and very good spirits, and he became known as the "Gentle Giant." His smile graced numerous photographs and he became a popular guest at events.
Wadlow's enormous height was attributed to an overactive pituitary gland, which produces a growth hormone. Today there is therapy to correct for such overproduction of the growth hormone, but no such treatment was available then.
Wadlow enjoyed a childhood that was normal in every way except his height. He was bright in school and well-liked by his peers.
He joined the Boy Scouts, and at age of 13 he was the largest Boy Scout in the world. His height was 7' 4" and his weight was 270 pounds, and it required 14 yards of 36" wide material to make his Boy Scout uniform.
He attended and graduated from Alton High School (then Tatler-Alton High School), which continues to exist today. There is a film of him practicing basketball with the high school team, which has some humorous scenes as he simply dropped the ball into the basket without jumping or even stretching much.
Remembering the Gentle Giant
Wadlow's untimely death at age 22 required a dozen men, aided by eight others, to carry his 1000-pound casket at his funeral. He was buried in Upper Alton Cemetery, where his body rests to this day.
He remains honored by the Alton Museum of History and Art, which is located on the campus of the Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine, on College Avenue in Alton, Illinois.