The second-tallest man ever: John "Bud" Rogan

By Sanj Atwal

John William Rogan (USA, c. 1867–1905), or “Bud” as he was more commonly known, was the tallest person ever recorded before the title was taken by Robert Wadlow (USA, 1918-1940).

With a recorded height of 267 cm (8 ft 9 in), Bud Rogan remains the second-tallest person ever, and the tallest person of African descent.

However, due to his inability to stand, his height could only be calculated following a series of measurements taken in a seated position. It’s unlikely that Bud’s true standing height will ever be confirmed.


Bud Rogan was born in Hendersonville, Tennessee, USA, as the fourth of 12 children fathered by William Rogan, a former slave.

The Rogan family can be traced back to Rogana, a farm built in the late 1790s by Hugh Rogan, one of the original white settlers in the area.

At the age of 13, Bud experienced a rapid growth spurt owing to gigantism. His condition was such that he never stopped growing.

As a result, he also developed a debilitating ankylosis that left him unable to walk or stand as his knee bones became fused together.

In order to move around, Bud used a goat-drawn cart constructed from his own bed.

John Bud Rogan in his cart

It is oft-repeated that Bud earned a living by selling drawings, many of which were published. An 1897 Kansas City Journal article is usually cited as the source of this claim, however, the article was actually referencing Sumner Fauley, a travelling cartoonist who made a drawing of Bud.

In fact, Bud’s real job was to “meet incoming trains and haul valises and packages to hotels,” as per the same article.

He possibly also earned money by posing for photographs, however, he refused all offers to join the circus, declining “all applications from showmen and museum managers.”

It’s unlikely that Bud was a proficient artist, simply due to the fact that his hands were huge.

Bud’s hands were 12 inches (30.48 cm) long, which means they were bigger than the current world’s largest hands on a living person, belonging to Sultan Kösen (Türkiye).

Unsurprisingly, Bud was always the centre of attention wherever he went, but he seemingly dealt with it well and was noted for his playful attitude.

At the time, Bud was believed to have overtaken the record for tallest living man attributed to Franz Winkelmeier, Germany's "Giant of Friedburg-Lengau," who was billed as standing 8 ft 6 in (259 cm) but later confirmed medically to be 7 ft 6 in (228 cm).

John 'Bud' Rogan and Dr William Lackey

Bud eventually came to the attention of a young doctor named William Lackey, who examined Bud and published a paper about him.

However, Bud’s actual standing height will likely never be confirmed, as Dr Lackey only estimated Bud's height based on several measurements, reportedly accounting for his patient's inability to stand and the curvature of his spine.

Before his health took a turn for the worse, Bud was said to be 8 ft 6 in (259 cm) tall, weighing 300 lb (136 kg). He weighed just 175 lb (79 kg) when he passed away on 12 September 1905, aged 37, due to complications from his condition.

After Bud’s death, Dr Lackey measured him to be 8 ft 9 in (267 cm). However, more recent estimates based on contemporary photographs suggest that he may have been shorter than that.

Bud is thought to have been buried in a concrete tomb, just like Robert Wadlow was, in order to deter any grave robbers. Although the location is unknown – and will likely remain that way forever – Bud’s final resting place is believed to be an unmarked patch on the old Rogana farmlands.

Why Robert Wadlow will be the tallest person ever, forever

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