Robert Earl Hughes

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Robert Earl Hughes
BornJune 4, 1926
DiedJuly 10, 1958(1958-07-10) (aged 32)
OccupationEntertainer and Sideshow performer
Known forThe heaviest human to walk unassisted, The heaviest human in the world during his lifetime

Robert Earl Hughes (June 4, 1926 – July 10, 1958) was an American man who was, during his lifetime, the heaviest human being recorded and remains the heaviest human in the world able to walk without the need of any assistance, weighing 472 kilograms (1,041 lb). [1]

Early life and family[edit]

Robert Earl Hughes was born in Monticello, Missouri, the son of Abraham Guy Hughes (1878–1957) and Georgia Alice Weatharby (1906–1947). He was born a large baby at birth, "weighing a hefty but not abnormal" 11 lb 4 oz (5.1 kg)[2][3] and was a "fairly average-size baby until he contracted whooping cough when he was about five months old."[4] The whooping cough was believed to be involved in his extraordinary condition. The family moved to Fishhook, Illinois, when Robert was six months old.[2] He had two younger brothers, Guy B. Hughes (1927–2006) and Donald Hughes (1929–2012).


During his lifetime he was the heaviest human on earth, unlike most people his weight, he was not bed bound and still holds to this day a record of the heaviest human to walk. Hughes' excessive weight was attributed to a malfunctioning thyroid gland. His chest was measured at 3.15 metres (10.3 ft), and weighed between 472 kg (1041 lbs) 74.3 stone and 485 kg (1069 lbs)[5] at his heaviest. At the age of six, he weighed about 200 lbs, at ten he weighed 380 lbs.

During his adult life, Hughes made guest appearances at carnivals and fairs; plans to appear on the Ed Sullivan television program were announced but never came about. On July 10, 1958, Hughes contracted a case of measles, which soon developed into uremia, resulting in his death. He was 32 years old.

He was so extremely mobile to the extent that In 1944 he was drafted into the army at the age of 18 years old, He weighed 709lbs (321.6kg) (50 stone). And He spent the average 21 months in the army before being drafted out.[6]

He is often said to have been buried in a piano case. This error stems from a sentence that appeared in successive editions of the Guinness Book of World Records, which read, "He was buried in a coffin the size of a piano case." His headstone notes that he was the world's heaviest man at a confirmed 1041 pounds (472 kg).

Several vintage newspapers from 1956 noted that Robert Earl Hughes at 30 years old, was weighed in at 1,041 lbs "Nobody thought to take his measurements at his latest weighing. But at 946 pounds, Hughes' waist was an unbelievable 115 inches".

In 1957, now traveling with Guy and Lillian, Robert Earl honored bookings throughout the country. Walking, even with his massive cane, had started to become difficult for the 31-year-old. Word reached the carnival that Abe Hughes, Robert Earl's father, had died at age 79. Guy and Lillian returned to Illinois for the funeral, but Robert Earl stayed on, believing it his duty to honor his commitments. At season's end, he returned to Guy's farm, unable to walk more than 20 ft without the assistance of family, who would follow closely, lugging a 5-foot-wide, steel-reinforced chair in case of tiredness.


Some income was made from selling photographs of himself.[2] During his adult life, Hughes made guest appearances at carnivals and fairs.[4] At age 27,[7] he joined a traveling roadshow, often accompanied by some of his family.[2] Plans to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show variety television program were announced but never materialized.[8]


In 1958, Hughes contracted a case of measles, possibly from his nieces.[8] While traveling with the roadshow, he developed a rash in July in Nappanee, Indiana, his fingernails had turned dark blue, and he finally sought medical attention.[8] He developed uremia.[2] Unable to be treated at the nearest hospital in Bremen, Indiana, doctors came to him at his trailer.[8] However, they were unable to save him. At death, Hughes weighed over half a ton.

He was buried in a small church cemetery in Benville, Illinois[7] in Brown County near his hometown, Fishhook.[9] About 2,000 people attended the funeral.[8]

See also[edit]

Additional reading[edit]

  • Faig, Kenneth W. (2001). Big Heart: Remembering Robert Earl Hughes, 1926-1958. Issue 8 of Moshassuck monograph series. Moshassuck Press – via Google Books.


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c d e Gertz Husar, Deborah (June 12, 2007). "Robert Earl Hughes was a gentle giant". The Herald-Whig. Retrieved 2020-02-05.
  3. ^ "710 Pound Youth". Life. 1946-10-07. pp. 81–82, 84. Retrieved 2020-02-05 – via Google Books.
  4. ^ a b Moreno, Rich (2010-02-04). "The Biggest Man in Fishhook, IL. Ever". Exploring Illinois. Retrieved 2020-02-05 – via
  5. ^ "Robert Earl Hughes (1926-1958) - Find A Grave..." Retrieved 2020-06-19.
  6. ^ Ripleys Believe it or not
  7. ^ a b "It's All in How You Look at It". Kentucky New Era. 1966-07-13. Retrieved 2020-02-05 – via Google News.
  8. ^ a b c d e Luciano, Phil. "World's Heaviest Man: The last chapter of Robert Earl Hughes' remarkable life". Washington Times Reporter. Archived from the original on March 4, 2012.
  9. ^ "Fishhook, Illinois to Benville, Illinois". How Far Is It? Distance Server. Retrieved 2020-02-05.