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Kentucky Arts and Culture
Letcher Co. to Honor Native Giant
Martin Van Buren Bates was 7 feet, 11 inches tall and weighed more than 500 pounds by some accounts. Now, 92 years after his death, his Letcher County birthplace wants to honor him in a way that befits his stature in county history and his nickname, the Kentucky River Giant. Bates served a noteworthy stint in the Civil War as a Confederate captain before marrying a woman taller than he was. Because of their size, they became international celebrities in the 1800s, traveling as part of a circus.