History of Paul Anderson

Anderson set four official Olympic weightlifting records (clean and press, snatch, clean and jerk, and total weight), and was listed in the 1985 Guinness Book of World Records as well as Famous First Facts for his 6,270-pound backlift, the greatest weight ever lifted by a human being. Some of Anderson’s more unusual feats of strength included driving a twenty-penny nail through a two-inch board with his fist, lifting two 85-pound dumbbells with his little fingers, and picking up a table with eight men sitting on it.


Significant events in Paul’s life.

1932-1949: Paul’s early days

Paul is born on October 17th in Toccoa, Georgia.
Paul struggles with Bright’s Disease which causes severe kidney problems.

1950-1955: Paul’s career begins

Paul gives up a football scholarship at Furman University to pursue weightlifting.
Establishes the first in a series of world records in the press, becoming the first man in the world to officially press 400 pounds.
  • Wins USA National Amateur Athletic Union Weightlifting Championships
  • Member of the first non-dignitary delegation to visit Russia after World War II; his raw strength and power shocked and thrilled the Russian people, who called him a “wonder of nature.” 
  • Wins World Championships in Munich, Germany, by breaking two world records
Paul's Fame Explodes - Paul Anderson

1956-1958: Paul’s fame explodes

1956: Exceeds three world records and retains USA National AAU Weightlifting Championship.

  • Paul wins the gold medal at the 1956 Olympic games in Melbourne, Australia. He is the last American to win Olympic Gold in the Super Heavyweight Division.

1957: Paul turns professional, lifting in exhibitions around the country, including the Mapes Hotel in Reno, and appearing on the Ed Sullivan and Groucho Marx shows.
1958: Paul tries his hand at acting, playing the blacksmith in Once Upon A Horse, a Rowan & Martin western comedy. In one scene, after a cow kept interrupting his work, he picked it up and carried it outside.
1959: Paul marries Glenda Garland, with whom he shares his vision of starting a home for troubled youth. Together, they begin to seek both funding and a location.

Early Days of the Home - Paul Anderson

1961-1971: Early days of the home

1961: Paul rides a bicycle from Vidalia to Omaha, Nebraska, to raise money to start a youth home. On the way, he meets Truett Cathy, who becomes the first donor to Paul Anderson Youth Home. In the fall, PAYH opens for business at the Mimosa Motel in Vidalia.
1962: PAYH moves to its current location on McIntosh Street.
1966: Paula, Paul and Glenda’s daughter, is born.

Paul's Career Begins - Paul Anderson

1972-1982: The ministry expands

1972: Additional youth homes are opened under the PAYH name in Texas and several other locations.
1978: PAYH opens its own school with the help of Truett Andrew.
1981: The main office complex burned down and had to be rebuilt.

1983-1994: Paul’s health declines

1983: Paul gets a kidney transplant. The kidney was donated by his sister.
1985: Paul’s illness gets worse, forcing him to remain in Vidalia. As he is unable to travel to the other homes to oversee them, he turns them over to their boards of directors.
1989: Paul is inducted into the FCA Hall of Champions. He is too ill to accept the award personally, but his daughter Paula accepts it on his behalf.
1994: Paul goes to be with the Lord after a long battle with Bright’s Disease.

1995 - 2007: The ministry moves forward

1996: Glenda runs the Olympic torch for the Atlanta Summer Olympics.
1999: The Truett Cathy Office Complex is built, with Mr. Cathy & Glenda breaking ground.
2004: Glenda remarries to Stephen Leonard; Drew Read becomes Chief Operating Officer.
2005: Drew Read and Mac Jordan begin an annual bike ride to commemorate Paul’s original 1961 ride to Boys Town in Omaha, Nebraska, in which he raised funds to start the home.
2006: PAYH Christmas Play begins as a small event on-campus, but quickly grew and moved its venue to First Baptist Church of Vidalia, GA, where more than 500 guests enjoy dinner and a show each year.
2007: PAYH builds a new, modern school facility, equipped with a computer lab and robust library.

2008-present: The ministry continues

2011: PAYH celebrates its 50th anniversary.
2016: PAYH adds a substance abuse treatment program in response to the growing addiction crisis.
2017:Funding is secured to develop a vocational program so PAYH young men can learn skilled trades.
2019:The premier episode of the History Channel show, “The Strongest Man in History” features Paul along with several of his most famous lifts and feats of strength.

  • Col. Ken Vaughn is appointed PAYH’s Chief Operating Officer.
  • A licensed Marriage and Family Therapist is added to the counseling program in order that Biblical counseling can facilitate family forgiveness, healing, and reunification.
Paul Anderson Youth Home