Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News

Walter Albritton

March 2, 2008


Paul Anderson used his great strength to help young people


      Some forty years ago I met Paul Anderson, known then as the strongest man in the world. We became friends and I invited him to speak in several meetings I arranged. He was a hit every time. Both his testimony and his strength were greatly admired by those who heard him.

          Over the years I lost contact with Paul but never lost my admiration for him. Recently I tried to locate him and found that he had died in 1994. Paul and I were the same age. We discovered America in 1932. He was born on Tugaloo Street in Toccoa, Georgia.

          I was surprised to learn that Paul still holds the Guinness record for the most weight in a back lift – 6,270 pounds. The back lift was Paul’s most amazing feat. Everywhere he went his closing demonstration was lifting a table with several big men standing on it.

          Paul was a man with a mission. He used his strength and his testimony to raise money for the Youth Home he operated in Vidalia, Georgia. Many homeless and troubled teenagers found hope and a home in the Paul Anderson Youth Home. During the 1970s Paul’s popularity soared; some years he made as many as 500 speeches and weightlifting performances. The fees collected for speaking provided the income needed to maintain the youth home.

          Paul began lifting weights after earning a football scholarship to attend Furman University. Quickly it became clear that Paul’s body was made for weightlifting. His first lifts set new university records. He quit school, returned to Toccoa, and began training in earnest for his new career. Setting up a gym in his father’s garage, Paul made his own barbells with buckets of cement on the ends of car axles.

          Anderson traveled with a team of Americans to Russia in 1955 to compete against that nation’s world class weightlifters. The top Russian impressed the crowd with an Olympic record 330.5 pound military press. Then Paul startled everyone by pressing 402.5 pounds. The Russian spectators rose to their feet as one, chanting “Chudo Prirody,” which means “a wonder of nature.” On that tour, by lifting in three lifts 1,130 pounds, Paul broke four world records.

          Paul was elected to the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in 1974. Two years before his death from a kidney disease, he was named the “Strongest Man of the Century.”

          I never felt Paul was overly impressed with himself. He gave God the glory for his unusual strength. More than once I heard him say, “If I, the strongest man in the world, need Christ in my life, perhaps you need him too.” He was not timid about sharing his faith.

          I am glad I knew Paul and counted him a friend. I never knew Samson, the better known strong man of the Bible. He was before my time. Samson’s tragic story might have been different if he had known a weightlifter like Paul Anderson. He could have learned how to use his phenomenal strength to honor God and help troubled young men.

          In my lifetime I have known many fine men who used the gifts God gave them to make a difference. Paul Anderson was one of them. + + +