Blocker's story begins and ends in DeKalb,
in Bowie County, located in uppermost Northeastern Texas, though most
of it played out in West Texas and
Blocker was born in DeKalb
in December 1928, but the physician who assisted in the process did
not issue a birth certificate until March 1929, and it recorded his
name as Bobby Don Blocker. Blocker weighed fourteen pounds at birth,
and when he became a celebrity, it was reported that he was the largest
infant ever delivered in Bowie County.
Blocker's family moved to O'Donnell,
in West Texas, when he was six years
old. After attending local schools, Blocker enrolled in the Texas
Military Institute, Hardin-Simmons University, and then played football
at Sul Ross State University. By then Blocker had grown to six feet,
four inches and weighed 275 pounds.
Blocker's degree from Sul Ross was in speech and drama, and it was
the latter that interested him most. He declined opportunities to
play professional football to concentrate on acting, but his career
plans were interrupted by service in the Army during the Korean War.
In 1952 he returned to Sul Ross to study for a master's degree, and
married Dolphia Lee Parker.
|Dan Blocker in
Photo courtesy of Frank Miklos
in schools in Sonora, Texas,
and Carlsbad, New Mexico, then moved to California to work on a Ph.D.
While doing so he served as a substitute teacher in Glendale Morrison.
1959 Blocker was cast as "Hoss" Cartwright, the middle son of rancher
Ben Cartwright, in "Bonanza," one of many Westerns that crowded television
screens in the 1950s and 1960s. What made "Bonanza" different was
its twelve-season longevity. The series ran for thirteen years with
James Arness' "Gunsmoke" its only competitor. "Bonanza" also became
the most popular Western series on television, and was the anchor
for NBC on Sunday evenings.
Blocker's portrayal of the large but loving son of Ben Cartwright
made him enormously popular, which also was good for business in the
national chain of Bonanza Steak Houses, in which he was a partner.
grave in the Woodsmen Cemetery,
near downtown DeKalb.
Photo courtesy of John DeBusk
Blocker died from complications resulting from surgery in 1972, and
was buried in the Woodmen Cemetery in DeKalb.
This East Texan finally came home after riding the range of the Ponderosa
so well and so long.
Dec. 14, 2003 column
Published with permission
A syndicated column in over 70 East Texas newspapers
This column is provided as a public service by the East Texas Historical
Association. Archie P. McDonald is director of the Association and
author of more than 20 books on Texas.