Dan Blocker died 49 years ago today of a pulmonary embolism. He had his gallbladder removed. Shortly thereafter, a blood clot formed in his lung and that was all it took to take the veteran, actor, and legendary Texan from this world. He was only forty-three years old.
Most television viewers remember Dan Blocker as Hoss from the hit show Bonanza. That series ran for fourteen seasons. Blocker was present for thirteen of those seasons. He passed away on this day in 1972, less than a year before the classic western ended.
However, Dan Blocker was much more than his Bonanza character. Since today is the anniversary of Blocker’s passing, we’re going to look back at his life. Join us as we learn a little more about the star of the classic western series.
Dan Blocker – Real-Life Hoss and More
Dan Blocker played the son of a rich rancher on Bonanza. In real life, Blocker was the son of a poor Texas farmer. His father lost the family farm shortly after the Great Depression struck. However, the actor never forgot his Texas roots. In fact, his Texas upbringing is part of what landed him the role of Hoss. We’ll come back to that later. For now, let’s look at the path that led him to the Ponderosa.
Before Dan Blocker was an actor, he was an academic. He earned a master’s degree in dramatic arts from Sul Ross State Teacher’s College in 1952. After earning his degree he went on to become a teacher. He taught high school English and drama in Sonora, Texas for five years starting in 1953.
Before Dan Blocker could finish college and start his teaching career, though, he was drafted into the Korean War. Blocker served in the United States Army. He was an infantry sergeant in F Company, 2nd Battalion, 179th Infantry Regiment, 45th Infantry Division. He served from December 1951 until August of the next year. Blocker earned a Purple Heart for wounds he sustained in combat.
Unlike many people, Dan Blocker didn’t move to California to pursue acting. In fact, Blocker moved to LA to pursue a Ph.D. at UCLA, according to IMDb. However, before he could finish his postgraduate studies, he landed the role of Hoss. He was discovered by a casting director for the show while making a call in a phone booth.
Dan Blocker was wearing Western attire at the time, complete with a straw cowboy hat. He wasn’t trying to stand out. That’s just how he had dressed his whole life. So, in staying true to his Texas roots and, more importantly, being himself, he landed a role in one of the most popular and longest-running television shows in history.