Terrell Jacobs ("The Lion King")

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Terrell Monroe Jacobs

Death: Died
Immediate Family:

Son of Charles M. Jacobs and Elmina G. Dawes
Ex-husband of Marie Catherine "Dolly" Fuller

Managed by: Private User
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About Terrell Jacobs ("The Lion King")


Terrell Jacobs won fame as the “Lion King,” for his record-setting act involving 52 lions, tigers and leopards in one arena. In a Ringling Bros./Barnum & Bailey poster of the 1930s, a dapper bow-tied Jacobs appears with upraised crop, surrounded by roaring lions.

OBITUARY - "Circus Bandwagon," Vol. 2, No. 1 (Jan-Feb), 1958, pg. 10.


Terrell M. Jacobs, acknowledged one of the worlds greatest wild animal trainers of all time, and an early member of the Circus Historical Society, passed away at his home in Twelve Mile, Indiana on December 24,1957. Death was attributed to a heart attack, and was without any warning whatever. He had been appearing in and around Houston, Texas with his act at super markets, but came back to Indiana to be with his family for the Christmas holidays. On the morning before Christmas, he had arisen and was around the house as usual giving much attention to his boys, Derrell age 4, and Dawes, age two. Suddenly at 9:05 a.m., he was stricken and passed away within a few minutes. He was 54 years of age, and had been training animals since he was thirteen and had his own Wild Animal act on the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus when he was only fifteen.

Among the circuses who featured Terrell Jacob's Lions and Tigers for over Forty years were Al G. Barnes, Sells-Floto, Christy Bros., Lee Bros., Robbins Bros., John Robinson, Gentry Bros., Howes Great London, Gilbert Bros., Holland Classical Circus, Austin Bros., Arthur Bros., Barnes Bros., Cole Bros., and the Al G. Kelly-Miller Bros. Circus. Jacobs had also been featured attraction on America's largest railroad carnivals including Royal American Shows, World of Mirth, Strates Shows, and the Conklin Shows, and Sullivan Worlds Greatest Shows in Canada where he was always popular. In other years, he had operated his own Wild Animal Circus, and appeared at Shrine Circuses all over America. Terrell probably reached the peak of his Circus career during the season of 1938 and 1939 when he appeared with Ringling Bros., Barnum and Bailey Greatest Show on Earth, presenting the largest group of Lions, Tigers, and Leopards ever shown in the arena at one time -- 52 of these mixed cats were in the cage with Terrell during the above season, and numbered more than four times as many as the largest cat act before the public today. In addition, Jacobs had broken several performing Bear acts, and toured the country with the only act of its kind, performing rare Black Leopards. In 1940 his act was featured at the San Francisco World Fair.

When the Circus Historical Society was in the founding stages, Terrell was one of its most sincere and active supporters, and he was probably the first and only Circus man at that time to believe that the old time Circus Parade wagon should be preserved for posterity. Early in 1946 when plans were announced for the first National Convention of CHS, Terrell expressed a desire to sponsor the meet at his Quarters near Peru, Indiana and no one worked harder than he to insure its success. Terrell personally saw to it that everyone present obtained all the photos they desired of his equipment and his animals, and on one afternoon he spent over four hours in an outdoor arena with his star performer, the lioness "Sheba" for the benefit of all members who wanted their pictures taken in the big cage. On the last day of the convention, a complete circus performance was given at the quarters, and none who were present will ever forget the precision with which Terrell's cats worked that afternoon, as he calmly worked, them in shirt-sleeves and vest, calling each animal by name and explaining their act as he went along. Then as if for an extra finale, two huge Tigers jumped at Sheba as she left her perch, and a battle royal ensued for nearly ten minutes. Through it all, Terrell remained in the cage first pleading, then prodding the beasts until they separated and headed for their runway.

Funeral services were held at the Cain Funeral Home near Denver, Indiana and several hundred friends paid last respects, including a generous showing from the Circus Historical Society and the Circus Model Builders Assn., and numerous Circus Reformers from the Peru area.

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