Bobby Dan Davis Blocker
Bobby Dan Davis Blocker was born December 10, 1928, in DeKalb, Texas, to Ora “Shack” and Mary E. Davis Blocker. Weighing 14 pounds at birth, Dan has been heralded as the largest baby ever born in Bowie County. He grew to be a large man, standing six feet, four inches and weighing close to 300 pounds. His physical size was significant; however, his kind, gentle spirit, and his fun-loving nature is what is most memorable about him.
With his farm suffering the devastation of the Great Depression, “Shack” moved his family to O’Donnell, Texas, in 1934 and opened a grocery store. Here, Dan attended school, worked in the family store, and enjoyed laughter, jokes, and pranks. It is said his jokes and pranks were never at the expense of another, and that he was full of fun and gaiety, but could settle down and get right to business when necessary.
After completing his freshman year at O’Donnell High School, Dan enrolled at the Texas Military Institute in San Antonio, Texas, where he completed high school. Dan attended Hardin-Simmons University in 1946 where he was a tackle on the football team.
He then transferred to Sul Ross University in Alpine, Texas, where he became interested in acting after participating in a production of Arsenic and Old Lace, for which he was recruited because of his ability to carry the heavy “dead” bodies. Finding he enjoyed this experience, Dan changed his major from physical education to drama.
After graduating from Sul Ross with a Bachelor of Arts degree in speech and drama, he refused offers of professional careers in both football and boxing to act in summer stock in Boston. While in Boston, he was drafted for combat duty in Korea, where he served as an infantry sergeant with the 45th Division.
After his military service ended in 1952, Dan returned to Sul Ross and completed a Master of Arts degree in dramatic arts. He married his college sweetheart, Dolphia Lee Parker, on August 25, 1952. They had four children: twin daughters, Danna and Debra, and sons, David and Dirk.
Dan taught high school English and drama in Sonora, Texas, for a year, then was a sixth grade teacher and coach at Eddy Elementary School in Carlsbad, New Mexico. He moved his family to California in 1956 and began work on a Ph.D. degree at the University of California at Los Angeles. During this time, he also worked as a substitute teacher at Glendale and began his career as a professional actor in Los Angeles.
From 1957 to 1959, Dan appeared in numerous TV roles, including Gunsmoke, Colt 45, Cimarron City, Sheriff of Cochise, and Wagon Train. He also performed in a Three Stooges short, Outer Space Jitters.
In 1959, Dan was cast in the role that would define him the remainder of his life. As the beloved, somewhat simple-minded, middle brother, prankster Hoss Cartwright on the NBC network television production, Bonanza, Dan won the hearts of viewers for 13 seasons.
In addition to being a popular actor, Dan was a successful businessman. He was co-owner of Bonanza, a nationwide chain of steak houses.
He received the Texan of the Year Award in 1963 from the Texas Press Association, and in 1966, he served as honorary chairman of the Texas Cancer Crusade. Dan quietly helped others, and never turned away a friend in need. He only asked those he helped one favor, “Please don’t tell anyone that I am involved.” After his death, it was revealed that he was the anonymous founder of the Guyot Foundation Home for Girls in Los Angeles.
Dan died on May 13, 1972, after a blood clot developed following gall bladder surgery, causing a massive pulmonary embolism. He was quietly buried in a small cemetery in DeKalb, Texas, beside his father.
The storefront of the old family grocery remains in O’Donnell, and the town has memorialized Dan in a section of their county museum. In a park across from the museum, a bust of Dan was installed in 1973 with a plaque that reads, “Thanks to film, Hoss Cartwright will live; but all too seldom does the world get to keep a Dan Blocker.”
It is the high honor of Hardin-Simmons University to recognize one of her own and to formally induct Bobby Dan Davis Blocker into the HSU Hall of Leaders.