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 for his 6,270-pound backlift, which at the time was considered 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) as a child. The disease would ultimately claim his life in 1994.
1950-1955: Paul’s career begins
- Paul gives up a football scholarship at Furman University to pursue weightlifting.
- Paul begins to travel around to amateur weightlifting competitions, where he begins to make a name for himself.
- Paul goes behind the iron curtain to Russia. There, his raw strength and power shocked the Russian people, who nicknamed him “Chudo Piryody,” which means “wonder of nature.”
1956-1958: Paul’s fame explodes
1956: Paul wins gold in the Olympics in Melbourne, pressing 415 lbs. on his 3rd attempt, despite a 104 degree fever.
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.
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.
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 it’s 50th anniversary.
2016: PAYH implements the Prime for Life substance abuse treatment program in response to the growing addiction crisis.
2017: Funding is secured to add a vocational program to our school to teach our young men skilled trades and expose them to more employment opportunities.