Joe Higgins- The First Santa Aboard the Santa Train

The Santa Train will be rolling into town this Saturday!

The first Santa aboard the train was Joe Higgins.

Joe Higgins

Joe Higgins played the role of Santa on the Santa Train from 1943-1950. During that time he also played Santa around town at various functions for the holidays, including playing Santa at W.B. Greene Company. Joe Higgins took his role as Santa very serious, even attending Santa School so he could more realistically portray Santa.

After his death in 1951, the next Santa, John Dudney, was selected because he was able to fit into Higgins’ size 9 boots. The archives is fortunate to have the Joe Higgins Santa Train Collection. The collection, donated by Clara Higgins in 2000, consists of items related to Higgins’s role as Santa Claus on the annual Santa Train, including his Santa Suit! For more information on Joe Higgins please contact the archives.

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7 thoughts on “Joe Higgins- The First Santa Aboard the Santa Train

  1. My parents knew John Dudney. Wasn’t he santa for 25 years or so? I know he was during my child hood. If Joe Higgins was the first santa on the santa train was the Times News article about it wrong at the time? What is correct?

    1. That is a good question! The archives was given the Joe Higgins collection several years ago by Clara Higgins. Information provided by her and others note that Joe Higgins was the first. This may require a little more digging.

    2. I found an article from the Times-News from December 24, 1975 that interviewed John Dudney about the Santa Train. He stated in the interview that “it was Joe Higgins who arranged for Santa to be on the first train. What’s more Joe even got Santa a special outfit-custom made boots which cost $48, a lot of money in those days, and a new red suit made of imported broadcloth at $12.50 a yard.”
      I could find no reference in 1943 of Mr. Dudney being on the train as Santa Claus. I stand by Joe Higgins being the first.

    3. I also found an article from December 6, 1940 that shows a picture of Joe Higgins as Santa for Kingsport’s Christmas parade. So, it looks like he was playing Santa for Kingsport even before the Santa Train.

  2. Not to comment about Santa Claus, but wasn’t Joe Higgins the owner of the old Kingsport Cherokee class D baseball team and didn’t he also work at the Kingsport Press?

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