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Tallest Famous Men Not Famous For Being Tall
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September 13, 2013, 03:28 PM
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A long-time commenter on my own blog points out that NYC mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio (born Warren Wilhelm) claims to be 6`5", but looks taller. That raises an old question about how many extremely tall men there really are. The fame of basketball stars inures us to how unusual 7-footers are, until you see a famous basketball player in a civilian setting. 

A long time ago, Colby Cosh raised the question of how many extremely tall men have been famous for reasons unrelated to their being tall. 

Here`s a random list, using heights that I have one source for. Of course, sources disagree, and there are inevitable questions about height in shoes or barefoot, at prime age or in old age, etc.

  • Michael Crichton, novelist, 6`9"
  • John Kenneth Galbraith, economist, 6`8"
  • Crown Prince Leka, rightful heir of Zog, King of Albania, described as anywhere from 6`5" to 7`0"
  • John Maynard Keynes, economist, 6`6"
  • Thomas Wolfe, novelist, 6`6.5" (novelist Tom Wolfe claims his namesake wrote standing up using the top of a refrigerator as his table)
  • James Cromwell, actor, 6`5.5"
  • Peter the Great, Czar, 6`8"
  • Charles de Gaulle, Frenchman, 6`5"
  • Jim Pinkerton, pundit, 6`9"
  • Tommy Tune, Broadway dancer, 6`6.5"
  • Mikhail Prokhorov, oligarch and owner of Brooklyn Nets, 6`8"

Here`s an 1866 list of the height of U.S. Senators. The tallest were Edgar Cowan and Charles Sumner at a little over 6`3". Abraham Lincoln, another victim of wounded Southern amour propre, is usually said to have been 6`4".

Bush and Fox

Here`s a graph of Presidential heights. And here`s a table of winners v. losers in Presidential elections. It`s not at all true that the taller candidate always wins (for example, the tallest candidate listed is Gen. Winfield Scott, loser in 1852, at 6`5"), but it`s clear that men of below average height have trouble getting nominated. 

Heightism is like anti-sinisterism (bias against lefthanders)—it`s one of those things that people tsk-tsk about, but there`s little organized opposition that fights discrimination against the short because height, like left-handedness, is distributed somewhat randomly around the population.

Bush and Gutierrez

This makes it harder to organize around than more powerful identity politics traits such as race, ethnicity, language, religion, sex, and sexuality.

Even where shortness is concentrated, such as among Mexican-Americans, there`s no organized anti-heightist effort. Instead, tall Cubans like Carlos Gutierrez step forward to tell their fellow Republican what short Mexicans want.