The current voice of "Big Tex," Robert "Bob" Boykin, has died, according to officials with the State Fair of Texas.
"With great sadness in our hearts, the State Fair of Texas is announcing the passing of the voice of our beloved Big Tex," the fair said in a news release Monday morning.
Boykin, 73, who was the sixth person in fair history to voice the iconic Texan, was born in Dallas, raised in Richardson and attended college at Arlington State College (now UTA). While in college, Boykin worked as an announcer at Green Valley Raceway, a drag strip that was in the former town of Smithfield (now part of North Richland Hills) in Tarrant County.
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Boykin was also a Marine who went on to a 40-year career at Lockheed Martin where the fair said he, "had a hand in designing projects like the stealth bomber and F-16, in addition to guiding tours around the Fort Worth plant for dignitaries from all over the world."
Boykin's lifelong dream, however, was to be the voice of Big Tex, the fair said in a news release Monday. Following the fiery disaster in 2012 that destroyed the fair's main attraction, organizers decided to go in a new direction and held auditions to find the iconic Texan's new voice.
The fair said Boykin nearly didn't throw his hat into the ring and waited until 10 p.m. the night before the deadline to apply. Boykin made it to the final round and, "fully being himself -- good, honest, and simple, he got the job," the fair said.
His wife of 10 years, Terri Boykin, said in a statement that he was "absolutely stunned" to be selected.
“People have bucket list items of things they want to do in their life. Bob never dreamed he would have the opportunity to voice Big Tex. But he was able to finish that item. He lived his dream,” said Terri Boykin.
For the past seven seasons, from 2013 through 2019, Boykin voiced Big Tex in anonymity. The fair said he was known for sneaking out to talk to fairgoers during his breaks, however, so many may have spoken with him without knowing his alter ego.
"One of his favorite parts of voicing Big Tex was being able to watch the crowds and see the look on a child’s face the first time they saw the 55-foot cowboy in person," the fair said. "He also loved to see his beloved United States Marine Drum & Bugle Corps march by Big Tex, making a special announcement when they did so."
The fair said Boykin was a lifetime member of the Shriners and was a Freemason. He is survived by his wife, family, friends, and five Great Pyrenees dogs, which are the namesake to his Polar Bear Ranch located in Terrell. Boykin was buried in the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery, with honors, on Jan. 29 and a celebration of life was held for him this past weekend in Kaufman.
"Thank you for bringing so much joy and life to our iconic cowboy, Bob. We will miss you deeply," the fair said.
The State Fair of Texas said details about finding a new voice for Big Tex will be announced in the coming months.