TERRELL, Texas — A bucket list item for him, Robert "Bob" Boykin had always dreamed of being the voice of Big Tex — the 55-foot tall, Texas-sized cowboy that greets fair-goers each year at the State Fair of Texas.
His role as the voice of Big Tex, until recently in his passing, was relatively unknown — a requirement for those filling the tall order. Many more may be surprised to learn that he was a Kaufman County resident.
So, as the State Fair of Texas opens auditions today for the next voice of Big Tex, we remember the man, who was highly-accomplished in his own right, who served the past seven years as the boisterous iconic cowboy.
Boykin was a true Texan, born in Dallas and raised in Richardson, a graduate of a north Texas high school and Arlington State College, now known as University of Texas Arlington, according to a press release from the State Fair of Texas. He joined the United States Marine Corps and went on to work for Lockhead Martin for more than 40 years — having a hand in designing projects like the stealth bomber and F-16 and guiding tours around Lockheed Martin's Fort Worth plant for dignitaries from around the world. He was a Freemason and a lifetime member of the Shriners.
"Bob accomplished many great things, but he held tightly to a dream he had ever since he was a young boy," read the release. "His dream was to be the voice of Big Tex."
Boykin's wife of more than 10 years, Terri Boykin, says being the voice of Big Tex was a bucket list item for her husband.
“People have bucket list items of things they want to do in their life," she said. "Bob never dreamed he would have the opportunity to voice Big Tex. But he was able to finish that item. He lived his dream."
Boykin waited until 10 p.m. the night before the 2012 audition deadline to throw his hat in the ring — eventually whittling through over 150 applicants to become one of the top four finalists.
"Bob showed up to the final round of auditions, fully being himself – good, honest, and simple," stated the fair. "He got the job."
Terri recalls that he was absolutely stunned upon hearing the news that he had been selected as the next voice of Big Tex.
One of the many requirements of being the voice of Big Tex is you cannot disclose you are the voice of Big Tex.
So, for the past seven years, Boykin had voiced the iconic cowboy under anonymity. Many, according to the State Fair of Texas, may have spoken to Boykin himself as he was known to walk the fair grounds to talk to fairgoers.
"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," read the release. "He also loved to see his beloved United States Marine Drum and Bugle Corps march by Big Tex, making a special announcement when they did so."
"Bob is survived by his wife, family, friends, and five Great Pyrenees dogs, which are the namesake to his Polar Bear Ranch located in Terrell, Texas," read the release.
Boykin was buried with honors at the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery on January 29, 2020, and a celebration of life was held for him in Kaufman on February 8, 2020.
"Thank you for bringing so much joy and life to our iconic cowboy, Bob," stated the State Fair of Texas. "We’ll miss you deeply."
The first round of auditions began today, April 1, and the State Fair of Texas will be accepting applicants until April 15. For more information, visit bigtex.com/voice.