Rosey Grier: The Gentle Giant

The bigger than life Rosey Grier has been part of the pop culture landscape for several decades and between 1960 and 1980, Grier made his mark at a pro football player, singer, actor, minister, needle point artist, and body guard.

As a star with the New York Giants and later the Los Angeles Rams, he was a part of two defensives lines that were called the Fearsome Foursome, first with the Giants along with Jim Katcavage, Andy Robustelli, and Dick Modzelewski and later with the Rams along side Merlin Olsen, Deacon Jones, and Lamar Lundy.

At 6’5” and nearly 300 pounds, Grier was a immobile defender, making the Pro Bowl in 1956 and 1960 and making All-Pro seven times. A durable player, he missed only three games between 1956-1966, succumbing to a torn achilles in 1967 that ended his career.

After football he worked as a bodyguard for Senator Bobby Kennedy during the 1968 presidential campaign. Grier was guarding a pregnant Ethel Kennedy, the senator’s wife,  when Senator Kennedy was shot in Los Angeles. Although unable to prevent the assassination, Grier took control of the gun and subdued the shooter, Sirhan Sirhan.

Grier and Olympic decathlon gold medalist Rafer Johnson heard shots fired ahead of them. As Grier caught up he saw men wrestling with gunman Sirhan Sirhan. Grier jumped into the fray. He explains:

“So I see George Plimpton has the gun pointed at his face, and I’m concerned that it is going to go off, so I put my hand under the trigger housing and I pulled back the hammer so it couldn’t strike. I wrench the gun from Sirhan. I find the pin and I ripped it out and held it. Now I have the gun in my hand, so I shove it in my pocket. I grabbed the man’s legs and dragged him onto a table. There was a guy angrily twisting the killer’s legs and other angry faces coming towards him, as though they were going to tear him to pieces. I fought them off. I would not allow more violence.”

His association with the Rams put him in close proximity to Hollywood and enabled him to pursue an acting career. Grier hosted the Rosey Grier Show on KABC-TV, a weekly half-hour television show discussing community affairs in Los Angeles. In the 1960s and 1970s he made approximately 70 guest appearances on various shows. He perhaps is most known for The Thing With Two Heads (1972) which has become a cult classic.

He also continued a singing career, charting with the tribute to Bobby Kennedy, “People Make the World” in 1968. As a writer, Grier authored the unlikely “Needlepoint For Men” in 1973. He became an ordained Protestant minister in 1983 and founded American Neighborhood Enterprises, a nonprofit organization that serves inner city youth. He was also a featured speaker at the 1984 Republican National Convention.

TV Shows:
Man From U.N.C.L.E. (1965)
Wild, Wild, West (1968)
I Dream Of Jeannie (1968)
Daniel Boone (1969-70)
Make Room For Granddaddy (1970-1971)
Match Game (1974)
McMillan & Wife (1974)
Captain Kangaroo (1975)
Movin’ On (1975-76)
Kojak (1976)
Chico and the Man (1977)
Chips (1977)
Quincy, M.E. (1978)
Flying High (1978)
The Love Boat (1979)
Roots: The Next Generation (1979)
White Shadow (1980)
The Jeffersons (1983)

The Simpsons (1999 – voice)

Desperate Mission (1969)
Carter’s Army (1970)
The Thing With Two Heads (1972)
Skyjacked (1972)
The Seekers (1979)

The Glove (1979)

In his later years he’s travelled the United States as an inspirational speaker and continued writing. He lost a bid to run for Governor of California of California as a Republican in 2017. Look for Rosey Grier cards in upcoming RetroCards sets.