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Big Jim Williams - A Powerlifting Pioneer

Strength Oldschool

Big Jim Williams

By Keith Payne of House of Payne Powerlifting

Nov 27/2000

Twenty Eight years ago this month on November 9, 1972, Jim Williams competed in the World Powerlifting Championships held in Harrisburg Pennsylvania. He had broken the record of the great Pat Casey (who had bench pressed 617 pounds) in 1971 at the Eastern USA Open with a 635 pound American record.

On November 6, 1971 at the World’s he had set another record with a 660 pound bench press. Needless to say the 1972 World’s was a much anticipated event. Jim Williams, with ace wraps on his elbows, wearing a t-shirt and singlet, bench pressed 675 pounds for what should have been a world record. (I mention what he wore because he didn’t have on any other supportive gear. I believe this is significant when it comes to comparing past and present day records).

The sad part of this story is that Jim Williams’ records are not recognized as being world records. The powerlifting governing body of the day (I believe the IPF) would not validate his lifts even though they were sanctioned by the AAU in a World Powerlifting event. The striking thing is the 675 pound American record stood in the AAU and later in the USFP from November 9, 1972 until July 31, 1994 when Anthony Clark established a new mark at 683 pounds.

Even though several people witnessed Williams benching over 700 pounds, he never did it in a competition. I believe we need to revisit history from time to time and not let the early pioneers of the sport be forgotten. Jim Williams was one of the greatest bench pressers of all time!

by Keith Payne


The following information was provided by David Harrington…

I was fortunate to have been at the 1972 World Powerlifting Championships and witnessed Jim Williams’ performance. I was 13 years old at the time. This was the first competition I ever attended. My friend, Albert managed to talk his father into driving us to the competitition which was about 10 miles from where I lived. Williams was leading after the bench press but had problems in the squat and deadlift losing his lead and the competition to John Kuc.

Meeting Jim Williams and getting his autograph after the competition was an unforgettable event. Jim was a monster and I mean that as a compliment. He had the thickest delts, pecs and traps I had ever seen! He looked powerful enough to bore through a brick wall!

The AAU Mr. World was held in conjuction with the AAU World Powerlifting Championships. There were a number of irongame celebrities in the audience including bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno. It was a show to remember especially for a 13 year old!

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