Sandy Allen died at the nursing home where she had lived for several years in her central Indiana hometown of Shelbyville, family friend Rita Rose said. Allen had been ill for several months, using a wheelchair because of poor circulation and weak leg muscles, Rose said.
Guinness World Records listed Allen as the world's tallest living woman at the time of her death, spokesman Damian Field said. Some Web sites, however, cite a 7-foot-9 woman from China.
Allen weighed 6-1/2 pounds when she was born in June 1955. By the age of 10 she had grown to be 6-foot-3, and was 7-1 by the time she was 16.
She wrote to Guinness World Records in 1974, saying she would like to get to know someone her own height.
"It is needless to say my social life is practically nil and perhaps the publicity from your book may brighten my life," she wrote.
She had tumor on her pituitary gland that caused her remarkable growth removed in 1977, Rose said.
The recognition as the world's tallest woman helped Allen accept her height and become less shy, Rose said.
"It kind of brought her out of her shell," Rose said. "She got to the point where she could joke about it."
Allen would wear T-shirts printed with phrases such as "The weather up here is fine" or "I'm with shorty," Rose said.
Allen worked for a while as a secretary, appeared on numerous television shows and often spoke to church and school groups, letting children know that it was OK to be different.
"She loved talking to kids because they would ask more honest questions," Rose said. "Adults would kind of stand back and stare and not know how to approach her."
She stopped public speaking in recent years because of mobility issues, said Rose, who recently wrote a book based on Allen's time in high school.
Allen had been hospitalized in recent months as she suffered from a recurring blood infection, along with diabetes and breathing troubles, Rose said.
Funeral arrangements were pending at Murphy Parks Funeral Services in Shelbyville.
Allen lived in the same nursing home as 115-year-old Edna Parker, who Guinness has recognized as the world's oldest person since August 2007.
Allen was proud of her height, Rose said.
"She embraced it," she said. "She used it as a tool to educate people."
Rose is working to set up the Sandy Allen Scholarship Fund, with proceeds going to Shelbyville High School.