Dan Blocker, television actor, was born on December 10, 1928, in DeKalb, Texas, the son of Ora Shack and Mary (Davis) Blocker. His delayed birth certificate, filed by a doctor on March 22, 1929, recorded his name as Bobby Don Blocker. When he was six years old the family moved to O'Donnell, in West Texas, where his father operated a general store. Dan attended local schools before entering Texas Military Institute in San Antonio at the age of twelve. He studied at Hardin-Simmons University and then entered Sul Ross State Teachers College (now Sul Ross State University) in Alpine in 1947. He was always big–fourteen pounds at birth, reportedly the largest baby ever born in Bowie County. He stood over six feet and weighed 200 pounds as a youth of twelve; by the time he became a star football player at Sul Ross he was six feet, four inches tall and weighed over 275 pounds.
At college Blocker became interested in acting. When he graduated with a B.A. degree in speech and drama, he refused offers of professional careers in both football and boxing. He acted in summer stock in Boston and soon afterward was drafted for combat duty in Korea, where he served as an infantry sergeant with the Forty-fifth Division. In 1952 he returned to Sul Ross, where he earned an M.A. degree. There he married his college sweetheart, Dolphia Lee Parker, on August 25, 1952; they had four children. Blocker taught school in Sonora, Texas, and Carlsbad, New Mexico, before moving to California in 1956 to 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. In 1959 he was cast in the role of "Hoss" Cartwright on the NBC network television production, "Bonanza," one of the longest-running and most popular TV series. Blocker was an enormously popular actor and successful businessman; he was co-owner of a nationwide chain of steak houses called Bonanza. 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. He played the role of Hoss Cartwright for thirteen seasons on national television, until his death on May 13, 1972, from complications following an operation. The television series was terminated soon after his death. Blocker was buried in Woodmen Cemetery, DeKalb, Texas.
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San Antonio Express, May 15, 1972. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 22, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
April 16, 2019