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Not all giants are scary, some of them are gentle too. Meet the Gentle Giant, “Robert Pershing Wadlow”, also known as the “Alton Giant” and the “Giant of Illinois”. He was an extraordinary American man who was the tallest person in the recorded history with indisputable evidence.

Robert was born and raised in Alton, Illinois, a small city near St. Louis, Missouri. He was born on February 22, 1918, to Harold Franklin and Addie May Wadlow, and he was the oldest of five children weighing in at 8.7 pounds. He was their firstborn, and there was nothing particularly notable about him at birth. He was healthy, happy, “normal.” It would take a few months before his spectacularity would start to take shape. By 1919, when Robert began to walk, he weighed 40 pounds. When he was 5, his mother enrolled him in kindergarten. He was 5 feet, 6.5 inches tall by then, wearing clothes that would fit a 17-year-old boy. Robert spent most of his life in Alton and always called it home, it’s where he was born and educated. He was taller than his father by age 8, and in elementary school, a special desk was made for him. Struggling to live a normal life, Robert enjoyed collecting stamps, photography, and become the world's tallest Boy Scout at 7 feet, 4 inches, when he was hardly 13 years of age.

By the time of his graduation from Alton High School in 1936, he was 8 feet 4 inches. Robert also enrolled in Shurtleff College with the ambition of studying law and later he became a member of DeMolay and the Masons. Bending down, stooping, sitting, all in a world built for men of much less prestige as part of Robert’s everyday life. He had to climb stairs sideways. His specially made clothes and shoes were expensive. But he took it all in pace, positive attitude and a smile.

When doctors tried to examine Robert and realised that his exceptional size was caused by hyperplasia of his pituitary gland, which results in an abnormally high level of human growth hormone (HGH). Robert was never given any treatment to stop it.

He had a humongous rise in daily food consumption of 8,000 calories, he actually continued to grow taller right up until his death and sadly, it was Robert's legs that caused his premature death, aged just 22 years old. He died at 1:30 a.m. on 15 July 1940 in a hotel in Manistee, Michigan, as a result of a septic blister on his right ankle caused by a brace, which had been poorly fitted only a week earlier. His last words were "The doctor says I won't get home for the...celebrations", a deliberation to his paternal grandparents' golden wedding. (source-guniessworldrecord.com) The Alton Giant was then buried in Oakwood Cemetery, Alton, in an enormous coffin measuring 10 feet 9 inches. long, 81 cm wide and 76 cm deep.

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Image Credit: en.wikipedia.org
Robert with his father

In 1984, the citizens’ committee organized efforts to immortalize Robert, and in 1985 a bronze statue (photo), was erected on the campus of the Southern Illinois University School of Dental Medicine. But his family had almost all of his belongings destroyed. They did not want collectors to obtain his clothes or personal items and be displayed as 'freak' memorial. They wanted him to be remembered with great pride and dignity.

In spite of physical abnormality, he lived his life with dignity and left us in a very young age, but unknowingly, Robert had given world’s most beautiful message to everyone: “accept positively what life presents you”.