HOUSTON – Friends and family gathered the Earthman Resthaven Funeral Home to pay their respects to a man whose footwear has touched the lives of many people. At 79 years old, Rocky Carroll was laid to rest.
Carroll is known for his footwear that has been worn by U.S. presidents, including Houston’s George H.W. Bush, as well as athletes like Peyton Manning and A-list celebrities.
Rocky went to his shop as always on Wednesday, and workers noticed he'd been drifting off during the day. Michael Carroll said he began to get concerned around 2:30 p.m. and called an ambulance, but by the time it had arrived, his father had died.
Michael Carroll said his father had no serious health problems and that his death came as a surprise.
The man, dubbed BOTUS, fashioned boots for several U.S. presidents, including George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama. A report said he even planned to make a pair for President Donald Trump.
"He got to fly on Air Force One. He got to go to the White House numerous times, and I got to go along with him sometimes," the younger Carroll said.
Michael said his father taught him how to work hard and instilled in him a sense of giving and charity. Michael would spend days watching his father make boots at his shop.
"Every summer 4 o’clock in the morning I'd go with him to work and work all the long hours to spend time with him because he loved what he did," Michael said.
Several pictures of George H.W. Bush hang on the walls of R.J. Boot Co. on Ella, the shop as characteristic as the man who owned it.
"I don't like plain boots. I like to make fancy boots. This is a pair of boots I made for George W. Bush on his birthday," Rocky said in a previous interview.
In addition to presidents, Michael Carroll shared a list of notable people who had a pair of his famous boots: Vladimir Putin, Elizabeth Taylor, Willie Nelson, Princess Diana, Dolly Parton, Kenny Chesney, Texas governors including John Connally, Ann Richards and Rick Perry, Johnny Cash, Larry Gatlin & the Gatlin Brothers, Susan Anton, A.J. Foyt, Chuck Norris, George Jones, John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Reba McEntire, Lee Greenwood, The Judds, Jack Nicholson, Larry Hagman, and Pope John Paul II.
"He made me a pair of boots years ago when I was real little," said Rocky's nephew, John Talley, who was then sporting another pair of boots his grandfather more recently made. "These are gator boots. He asked me if I had any boots to wear. I said, 'No.’ He did make these for me."
"He would always give of himself and donate to everyone who came in for charity. He would never say no," Michael said.
Kim and Bill Nash started a charity years ago called Champions Kids Camp, a charity to help children cope with traumatic events. Rocky's boots helped dozens of kids got to camp.
"We started with nothing but faith in God, but Rocky stepped up for our golf tournament, for our New Year’s Eve celebration, and our music fest -- He donated a pair of boots for each one," said Bill. "His boots would raise at least $2,000 for these kids."
George H.W. Bush released a statement Friday about Rocky via his spokesperson: “Barbara and I join Rocky’s family and many friends in mourning his passing. He was not only the best boot maker in the world -- Rocky was also a great friend and a good man. That rare combination of talent and character is why people all over the world wanted to wear his boots, which so many of us proudly do. We miss him already."
"Getting emails from Ted Poe, George Bush, Barbara Bush -- and everyone -- it's very comforting," Michael said.
Rocky Carroll was laid to rest at Woodlawn Cemetery Saturday afternoon.