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Watch a historical account of Paul’s life below:

History of Paul Anderson

The New York Times, November 27, 1956

“Melbourne, Australia (1956 Olympic Games) —Paul Anderson of Toccoa, Georgia, won the heavyweight weightlifting event in an epic three-hour test of strength. . .  Anderson’s triumph, one of the most dramatic in Olympic history, was finally achieved at 3:00 A.M., Melbourne time.

Heading into the Olympics, Paul needed strength other than his own to win The Gold Medal.  Desperately ill with a raging fever, Paul was too weak to lift the poundage which he normally raised with great ease.  He cried out to his Heavenly Father and rededicated his life to Jesus Christ.  This divine intervention enabled Paul to break an Olympic record to win The Gold.  He left the Olympics with a dream in his heart to help his fellowman. His bodily strength continued to amaze with feats such as his most famous 6,270 pound back lift which was documented by The Guinness Book of World Records and Famous First Facts as the greatest weight ever lifted by a human being.  His greatest accomplishments were demonstrated in his great love for Jesus Christ, his family, his country, and the Paul Anderson Youth Home, A Christian alternative to juvenile and adult correctional programs for young men between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one.

Company History


1932 Paul is born on October 17th in Toccoa, Georgia.

1938 Paul struggles with Bright’s Disease, which causes severe kidney problem.


1950 Paul receives a football scholarship from Furman University; he begins training with weights, which results in his decision to leave Furman and concentrate on weightlifting.

1955 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.

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 “The greatest weight ever raised by a human being, 6,270 pounds in a back lift”. The Guinness Book of World Records and Famous First Facts.

  • Paul lifts in exhibitions around the country and appears on many television programs including The Ed Sullivan Show and The Groucho Marx Show.

1958 Plays the part of a blacksmith in, Once Upon A Horse, a Rowan & Martin Western comedy.

1959 Paul marries Glenda Garland, with whom he shares his vision of starting a home for troubled youth. Together, they begin to seek funding and a location.


1961 Paul rides a bicycle from Vidalia to Omaha, Nebraska to raise money to start a youth home. He meets Truett Cathy, founder of Chick-Fil-A and the first contributor to PAYH.

  • PAYH accepts its first youth at the Mimosa Motel in Vidalia, Georgia.
  • Paul, sharing his Christian faith through public speaking and performing feats of strength at multiple venues provides the majority of the funding for PAYH.

1962 PAYH moves to its current location on McIntosh Street, Vidalia, Georgia. With Paul, Glenda, and G. H. (Gerry) Achenbach, President, Piggly Wiggly, PAYH becomes a 501(c)3 Corporation.

1964 Helms Hall of Fame Award, Helm Athletic Foundation.

1966 Paula, Paul and Glenda’s daughter, is born.

  • Guest Speaker at Billy Graham Crusade, London, England.

1970 Appointed to State Physical Fitness Council by Georgia’s Governor Jimmy Carter.


1972 Additional youth homes open under the PAYH name in other states.

1974 Inducted into the Georgia Athletic Hall of Fame.

1975 Appointed member, Advisory Committee on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention

  • Presented Branch Rickey Memorial Award, highest honor presented to a layman by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
  • Autobiography titled, The World’s Strongest Man is released.

1977 Recipient of the Golden Plate Award by the American Academy of Achievement.

  • PAYH opens its on-campus school with the help of Truett Andrew.

1981 Paul’s second book, Home: Society’s Pacemaker, is released. The main office complex burned down and had to be rebuilt. Simultaneously, Paul’s battle with Bright’s disease resurfaced.

History Intro Image

1983 Appointed lieutenant colonel, aide-de-camp, and governor’s staff by Georgia’s Governor Joe Frank Harris.

  • Citizens of Toccoa, GA, placed a permanent granite marker at his birthplace in Toccoa.
  • Georgia’s Governor Joe Frank Harris proclaimed “Paul Anderson Day”.
  • The United States Congressional Record paid tribute to Paul Anderson.
  • Paul receives a kidney transplant from his sister Dorothy Johnson.
  • Granted the Honorary Presidential Sports/Fitness Award for his contribution to sports in the USA by President Ronald Reagan.

1984 Inducted into National Power lifting Hall of Fame. Awarded “Father of the Year” by Southeast Father’s Day Committee.

1985 Paul’s illness worsens, forcing him to remain in Vidalia, Georgia; thus, relinquishing the other Youth Homes to their Board of Directors.

1986 Georgia’s Governor Joe Frank Harris declared “Paul Anderson Day” in commemoration of the Paul Anderson Youth Home’s twenty-fifth anniversary.

1990 Awarded Honorary Doctor of Education from Piedmont College, Demorest, Georgia.

1992 Inducted into the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Hall of Champions; since he is too ill to accept the award, his daughter Paula accepts it on his behalf.

  • Presented “Strongest Man of the Century” award at the USA Power and Strength Symposium, Orlando, Florida.
  • American Powerlifting Federation/World Powerlifting Congress Hall of Fame Award.

1994 Paul goes to be with the Lord after a long battle with kidney failure.

  • The United States Congressional Record paid tribute to him.

1995 Largest weightlifting arena in the Southeast named in Paul’s memory: “Paul Anderson/Howard Cohen Weightlifting Center, Savannah, Georgia.

  • Georgia House of Representatives and Senate passed resolutions in tribute to Paul.
  • The Paul Anderson Memorial Weightlifting Invitational, a pre-Olympic event, was held in Atlanta, GA.
  • A state historical marker was unveiled at the Paul Anderson Youth Home honoring him.

1996 Glenda named an Olympic torchbearer for the Atlanta Summer Olympics.

1999 S. Truett Cathy and Glenda break ground for the S. Truett Cathy Office Complex.

  • The Paul Anderson Memorial Park became a reality and is located one block from Paul’s birthplace. The focal point of the park is a cascading fountain, which showcases a beautiful life-size bronze statue of Paul raising a barbell overhead.
  • Paul Anderson The Mightiest Minister written by Randall J. Strossen, Ph.D. is released.
  • Drew Read becomes the first PAYH Chief Operating Officer.

2004 Glenda marries Stephen Leonard
2005 Strength for the Day, a devotional book for fathers and sons is released; a compilation of devotionals written by Paul for a weekly newspaper column Tomorrow’s Leaders

  • Drew Read and Mac Jordan inaugurate an annual bicycle ride commemorating Paul’s 1961 ride to Boys Town in Omaha, Nebraska.

2006 PAYH Christmas Play begins a small on-campus event, but quickly grows and moves its venue to First Baptist Church of Vidalia, Georgia, where more than 500 guests enjoy a dinner theater each year.

2007 PAYH builds the Gary and Nancy Chartrand Academic Center, modern school facility, equipped with a computer lab and robust library, and the Peyton Anderson Counseling Center.


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 Christian Marriage and Family Therapist is added to the counseling program in order that Biblical counseling can facilitate family forgiveness, healing, and reunification.