He was billed as the world’s strongest man and, during the Cold War, a convenient symbol of American power.
Paul Anderson was born in Toccoa, Georgia and overcame Bright’s disease as a child. A football scholarship got him to Furman University, but he quit and began lifting weights instead.
Anderson discovered that he had extraordinary leg strength. He could squat more than 400 pounds. He used a safe filled with concrete for training.
In the 1952 Tennessee state meet, he broke all heavyweight records in the press, snatch, and clean and jerk. At a competition in Moscow, he became the first man in history to press more than 400 pounds. The Russians called him “a wonder of nature” — a symbolic American victory in the trenches of the Cold War.
The 5-foot-9, 350-pound Anderson won the World Championship in 1955 and an Olympic gold medal at the Melbourne Games in 1956. The man known as “the Dixie Derrick” returned as a conquering hero to Toccoa, where he was born on October 17, 1932, Today in Georgia History.