Dave Ballard, aka Tobor the Robot, the World’s Tallest Santa, and the Texas Giant

Dave Ballard, the Texas Giant. Photo from the Marc Hartzman Collection.

Dave Ballard, the Texas Giant. Photo from the Marc Hartzman Collection.

When the 7-foot, 7-inch Dave Ballard was born in Commerce, Texas in 1905, he weighed a not-so-giant 10 pounds. Over his growth-happy years, he added another 340 to support his lofty frame.

Ballard graduated high school and attended Austin College until he could no longer afford tuition.

The giant worked in numerous jobs, including positions as a haberdashery clerk and a movie doorman. But at more than seven-and-a-half feet, Ballard eventually found his way into entertainment.

In addition to the obvious role of a giant in vaudeville, he also acted as a pirate and a Keystone Cop at cocktail parties.

And in 1947, Ballard played the “king-sized Kris Kringle” at a Christmas Land exposition in New York. The role required extreme patience, not because of curious kids, but due to eager adults asking cornball questions like “Raining up there, Bud?” and “Where’d ya get the stilts, Mac?”

“Nobody is ever original,” Ballard told a journalist reporting on the event.

Adults bothered the giant even more when they were drunk. Ballard told the journalist that they often picked fights with him, and said of one aggressor, “I held him off at arm’s length. He just swung himself out.”

In 1950, Ballard found his way behind the camera on TV when he appeared in an episode of Escape. A few years later he donned a robot costume and played Tobor in two episodes of Captain Video and His Video Rangers.

Ballard also earned a living as a sideshow giant. In the late 1950s he appeared with the Cristiani Brothers Circus. He later worked as the Texas Giant with showman Ward Hall.

In Hall’s 1981 autobiography, Struggles and Triumphs of a Modern Day Showman, he shared this story:

During the Berea, Ohio Fair a lady asked if I would give her nineteen-year-old son a job. We could use another ticket seller so I agreed. She said, ‘I don’t think you understand, he is a rather tall boy.’ My ears perked up as I asked, ‘How tall is he?’ To which she replied, ‘He is seven foot eight and would like to travel with your show.’

That he did. Since I had Dave Ballard, the Texas Giant, featured, we dressed Bob Collins in a Roman outfit with a high helmet, and sat him on the outside stage with a sign reading, ‘My name is Bob. I’m 7′-8″ but if you think I’m tall see the Texas Giant inside.’ It created a lot of interest and really stimulated business.

Hall, however, did not mention what height he claimed the Texas Giant stood. According to the showman’s book, Ballard’s days as a giant came to an end after suffering a terminal illness in 1968.


This article was originally published on AmericanSideshow.blogspot.com and was written for the book, American Sideshow, but cut before publication.