DICK HILBURN – The Quarter-Man

dick-hilburn-half man

Man is often greater than the sum of his parts.

On January 15, 1918 an infant named Dick Hilburn was born in Bladenboro, North Carolina. He was born physically incomplete.

Dick Hilburn was born with a single arm and physically little else. He possessed no left arm and no legs, only a vestigial two-toed foot protruded from his left hip. Yet, despite what would normally be considered a crippling handicap, Dick Hilburn possessed an unconquerable spirit and indomitable work ethic which allowed him to not only surpass expectations but to also exceed the ambitions of many able-bodied men.

Dick Hilburn conquered his mobility limitations with little more than a rolling board. He used his arm to propel and steer his body and in the process developed great physical strength. That strength allowed him to hoist his body wherever he willed it with relative ease.

Having dealt with his mobility issues, Hilburn focused on developing his mind and ingenuity. He proved to be a talented artist and became fairly well know for his skills with a tattoo needle. He was also sought after as a commercial painter of signs, banners, trucks and semi trailers.

He possessed a natural business sense and rather than rely on showmen for exhibition purposes, Hilburn developed and operated his own show. He exhibited himself on his own terms and, later, added a second attraction. A young parastremmatic dwarf, a dwarf with twisted limbs, named Carl ‘Frogboy’ Norwood joined the venture and Hilburn generously provided for the both of them. During the off season the two operated a local diner, which the one-armed wonder Dick Hilburn also owned.

Successful in life, art and business Hilburn was also successful in love. He later married an average woman who had all her fingers and toes.

Dick Hilburn ran his sideshow until the day he died in June of 1971. He lived his life as any man free of handicap would. His only limitation in life was his mortality.

As for Carl Norwood, he was managed by Hilburn’s widow for a short time before joining up with the great showman Ward Hall. He toured for a few more seasons before retiring and passing on in Atlanta on Feb. 24, 1976.

1976.image: Dick Hilburn circa 1958.

Read more about Dick Hilburn in American Sideshow.

Author, researcher and an expert of the odd, J. Tithonus Pednaud has been chronicling bizarre history and highlighting the lives of those born exceeding different for over a decade.


  • Reply November 9, 2007


    I´d just like to cheer you on because this site exemplifies what first made me fall in love with the internet, and is now enforcing my affection for StumbleUpon.

    Beautiful layout!
    Extraordinarily interesting content!

    I’m setting this site as my new home page for inspiration.

    I know it’s none of my buisness but I can’t help wondering how you are going to earn back the hosting fees. The google ads are very untargeted (but I clicked a few anyway:) and I know how meager the amazon percentage is, why don’t you publish your own stuff here, f.eks. a lulu.com book on this subject, a calendar with pictures of the heroes (might become a blazing hit in the weird online world), coffee mugs with pic and bio so I can have coffee with my favorite every morning etc.
    A thought is lurking in the background somewhere that this site is exploiting these marvels and other of similar affliction but I don’t think so, telling the world about their example, making the best of being a freak show, must encourage those children that are born today with similar deformities.

    Simply great work on so many planes.

  • Reply November 9, 2007

    J. Tithonus Pednaud

    Thank you so much for your gracious compliments. I truly appreciate them. Financially, I do just fine with this site. I do have a book due out shortly as well as other ventures but I don’t think you will be seeing and human marvel mugs in the future. During our inception, however, we did sell t-shits to pay for the initial set up.

    I am in the business of enlightenment, education and vindication. I do not exploit these remarkable people. Thus, profit is neither a motivator nor much of a thought.

  • Reply November 15, 2007

    Dr. Lao

    The human spirit knows no bounds.

    Thank you for this story.

  • Reply December 6, 2007


    What an amazing person you are! ‘Thank you’ from a mum who delivered an unhealthy child into this world – but one who is truly a beautiful gift and a great inspiration to her family.

  • Reply March 18, 2009


    “His only limitation in life was his mortality.”
    Beautifully written, this is a trutly inspiring story.

  • Reply January 9, 2010


    I absolutely love his expression.

  • Reply May 22, 2010

    Adrian Freeman

    May 22, 2010. I was also born in Bladenboro and met Dick Hilburn on numerous occasions. It was truly amazing to see him hop onto his skate board and go anywhere in town he wanted to go. His 1 arm was super powerful and he could leap from the ground up onto a front porch deck as if he had 2 good legs where there were no legs at all.

    I remember watching him draw and paint his own comic books, as well as painting the signs for stores and etc. His diner served great hot dogs and BBQ but today it is a used car lot. I remember him leaving town to go work in the circus during the circus season and returning months later to his sign shop and diner.

    He and his wife are buried in Bladenboro.

  • Reply May 30, 2011


    This is a fantastic story! Out of all the stories on this site, I find this one the most inspirational.

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