1932 – 1994
Paul Anderson was born October 17, 1932, in Toccoa, Georgia. According to Paul's brother in law, Mr. Julius M. Johnson, Mr. Anderson began weightlifting in his house where they had a 25 pound set of dumbbells and some old Strength and Health magazines while he was at Toccoa High School, not at Furman. He really began his weight training in the Johnson backyard where he developed his own training methods and techniques. By the time he reached Furman, he had already added over 100 pounds to his bodyweight and was making lifts that were close to the existing American records.
The reason he started to lift weights was very simple. When Paul started High School he wanted to play football, but was not large enough. So, Mr. Johnson gave him the dumbells and the magazines. He snatched them up right away and soon was scouring the junk yards looking for heavier weights to lift. In High School, he became first-team blocking back on the football team. He entered Furman University on a football scholarship. When he visited their gym, he saw and they saw how strong he already was. It was there that the idea of becoming a "strongman" entered his mind. It was at Furman that he began to try the Olympic lifts.
He left Furman after that one year and lived with his parents in Elizabethtown, Tennessee. He met Bob Peeples, a great lifter in his own right, and a devotee of the squat. So, in his early years, he trained mainly on the squat. This was a wise choice, for it gave him the basic strength to demolish all the official Olympic lifting records and many unofficial power records as well. Peeples recognized Paul's potential greatness and began to promote him and introduced him around weightlifting circles.
The rest is history. He squatted 900 while still an amateur and later did a legendary 1200 pounds for two reps as a pro. In all fairness, it must be said that there is some question if the 1200 went past parallel. But the 900, done without wraps or squat suits of any kind, was all the way down. Mr. Anderson's most impressive feat was the jerk press. Using a drive of the legs and then pressing the weight out, Paul made an incredible 565! To this day, this lift has never been duplicated. In 1955, he traveled as a Goodwill Ambassador from the United States to the Soviet Union. While there, his lifting surpassed many world records. Later that year, he won the World Championships. In his prime, he probably had the heaviest hip and thigh structure of any lifter in history. I am told that when he trained down to 330 pounds for the 1956 Olympics and actually had cuts in his thighs. He brought home the gold medal from the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. On June 12,1957, he lifted a total of 6,270 pounds in a backlift, which was listed in the Guiness Book of World Records as the greatest weight lifted by a human being. A great granite marker commemorating this great feat lies in front of his old house in Toccoa. He overhead pressed 400 pounds. He bench pressed 627 pounds. These were all done before there were world records. That's why we hardly ever hear of them, until now.
Towards the end of his life, Paul used to laugh about all the "legends" being told about him. One that he particularly enjoyed was a story that he had been seen pushing a bulldozer up the side of a mountain! There were so many things written about him, many of them based on little fact, that he came in the end to ignore them. Paul passed away in 1994 after a life-long bout with kidney disease.
Paul Anderson was a devoted Christian who dedicated his life to helping troubled children and motivational speaking. Paul Anderson married Glenda Garland in 1959. They have one daughter named Paula who lives in the family house now.
The Andersons established the Paul Anderson Youth Home in 1961. The Youth Home is a Christian rehabilitation facility for young people between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one who otherwise might be confined to penal institutions. Paul Anderson became a professional to raise funds through demonstrations and speaking engagements to support the Youth Home. Since its establishment in 1961, over two thousand young men benefited from the Home and the unselfish devotion of Georgia's beloved Paul Anderson before his death August 15, 1994.
These are a few of his accomplishments in his life
1955 World Champion Weightlifting
1956 Melbourne Olympics Gold Medallist in the 110+kg Class
Arm Press: 167.5 kg. (368.5 pounds)
2 Arm Snatch: 145 kg. (319 pounds)
2 Arm Clean and Jerk: 187.5 kg. (412.5 pounds)
Olympic total: 500 kg. (1100 pounds)
Best Olympic press: 575 pounds
1957 backlift of 6270 pounds
He was twice U.S. National Champion
He set 18 American Records
He set 8 World Records
He retired unbeaten and undefeated as an amateur