Jim Williams (powerlifter)
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February 25, 1940|
|Died||January 23, 2007(aged 66)|
|Other names||"Big Jim Williams", "Chimesy", "The Scranton Superman", "King of the Bench Press", "The Big Black Bear of Scranton"|
|Height||6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)|
|Weight||340 lb (150 kg) active|
|Representing United States|
|AAU World Powerlifting Championships|
|AAU US National Powerlifting Championships|
James Talbot Williams (February 25, 1940 – January 23, 2007) was a record holding professional competitive powerlifter from the United States of America. He competed in powerlifting just prior to the formation of the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF). During the early 1970s he set numerous bench press national and world records in the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU). On November 9, 1972 he performed his greatest official bench press of 675 lbs (with ace bandages on elbows/without a bench shirt), which is considered raw by today's standards. Since that day Jim Williams is officially the first man in history to bench press 300 kg (661.41 bs) in competition - since 1981 however, Bill Kazmaier is given credit for being the first person to bench press 300 kg after the formation of the IPF - the international governing body for the sport of powerlifting. By consistently pressing 650+ lbs raw and even touching 700+ lbs in training, Williams was without competition in his time and still is one of only 5-10 men in history who bench pressed in excess of 670 lbs officially.
Born in Scranton, Pennsylvania, Williams was exceptionally big and strong from the start. When he was 12 years old weighing 200 pounds, he excelled in football and track and field. He reached the state finals in the shot put four times, winning once – and when he weighed 340 pounds he could dunk a basketball.
In his early life Big Jim Williams had been involved in some criminal activity and got sentenced to ten years in prison for assault and battery and strong-arm robbery in 1961. It was there in captivity when Williams got into lifting weights seriously. When he was released, he was an immediate sensation in the powerlifting world, literally just showing up with his training partner John Kuc in tow and taking over.
Williams' first major goal was to break the world record of 615 pounds of Pat Casey, the first man to bench press 600 pounds.
On August 30, 1969 he crossed the magical 600 lb barrier to become only the second man in history to achieve an official 600 lb bench press. Williams broke Casey's world record in 1971 at the Eastern USA Open, hitting 635 pounds, which was recognized as the American record.
On November 6, 1971 at the inaugural AAU World Championships he set another record with a 660 pound bench press. He was also the favorite to win the World Championships, but surprisingly came in second to Hugh Cassidy, who totaled 2160 pounds as well, but being lighter got the victory for having the lower bodyweight.
On November 9, 1972 in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania at the second World Powerlifting Championships ever, Williams achieved second place again, this time behind fellow training partner John Kuc. He also made his best official bench result with a 675 pounds press with only ace bandages of a specified length on his elbows, wearing a T-shirt and singlet. This lift would have been recognized as the official world record, but it was done one year before the International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) was formed and began keeping "official" world records. Still, Williams' 675 pound bench press went into the books as an American Record and it was the all-time bench press world record, regardless of governing organization nonetheless. In addition to that, it stood as the American record in the AAU and later in the USPF for over 20 years from November 9, 1972 until July 31, 1994 when Anthony Clark established a new mark at 683 pounds with the help of a bench shirt. Williams had even attempted 700 at the 1972 World Championships and got it 3/4 of the way up. Although he never did it in competition, Williams had reportedly done 700 pounds in training on numerous occasions, with a best of 720 pounds. The legendary powerlifter John Kuc himself was one of the witnesses of Williams' 700 pounds bench press (as well as three international referees) at the York Gym and stated: "That was more enjoyable to watch than the 675 (official) lift, but it wasn't official." Williams always lifted in a raw fashion – supportive equipment was not available in his day, and a two-second pause at the chest was required. Many experts consider him to be one of the greatest bench pressers of all time.
Although known for his bench pressing, Williams also broke the world record in the squat, with 865 lbs, and did 1,200 lbs in a half squat unofficially, which he said was about 3-4 inches above parallel. His best training lifts included a squat of 900 and a deadlift of 815, even though he did not have good leverages for the deadlift and did not focus on it in his training.
Life after competition
His lifting career was not long and Williams did not compete officially after 1973. Shortly after the 1972 World Championships the U.S. Secret Service arrested Williams again and charged him with counterfeiting. In late 1979 he trained for a comeback, but suffered a serious quad tear, which ultimately ended his attempt as well as his lifting career.
Powerlifting competition records:
done in official Powerlifting full meets
- Squat - 865 lbs (392.35 kg) raw with ace-bandage knee wraps
- Bench Press: 675.0 lbs (306.2 kg) raw with ace-bandage elbow wraps, performed with a 2 second pause, which was required in those days
- → former official all-time bench press AAU (later USPF) American record in SHW class (+regardless of weight class and equipment) for more than 21 years from November 9, 1972 to July 31, 1994*
- → former all-time bench press world record in SHW class (+regardless of weight class and federation) for more than 12 years from November 9, 1972 to March 3, 1985**
- → former all-time raw bench press world record in SHW class (+regardless of weight class and federation) for more than 23 years from November 9, 1972 to July, 1996***
- Deadlift: 725.1 lb (328.9 kg) raw
- Total: 2240 lbs (860/655/725) / 1016.0 kg (390/297/329) raw with ace-bandage wraps (2235 lbs (855/655/725), which later weighed out at 2240 lbs (860/655/725)) on 5/6/1972 (AAU)
* surpassed by Anthony Clark's 683 lbs with a bench shirt on July 31, 1994.
** surpassed by Ted Arcidi's 705 lbs in a prototype supportive bench press shirt made out of polyester and cotton on March 3, 1985.
*** surpassed by Big James Henderson's 683 lbs without a bench shirt in July, 1996.
Powerlifting Gym Records (unofficial):
- Squat: 900 lbs raw with ace-bandage knee wraps
- Bench press:720 lbs raw - personal gym record
- 700 lbs raw - multiple times under eyewitnesses including in York Gym in 1972 in the presence of three international referees and in the basement of Bob Gaynor
- 715 lbs raw - in Pfeffer's Athletic Club in Scranton in 1979 or 1980
Williams died on January 23, 2007 at age 66 after battling diabetes for over 12 years.
Quotes about Williams
Former super heavyweight world powerlifting champion John Kuc said about Williams:
- "Jimmy had more potential than anyone other than Paul Anderson. I truly think with proper training he could have totaled over 2,500 pounds without equipment."
Iron game historian Dr. Terry Todd, said Jim Williams was one of the strongest super heavyweight lifters he had ever seen:
- "I would definitely place Jim Williams’ benching in the top ten, along with such stalwarts such as Paul Anderson’s squat, Bill Kazmaier’s dumbbell pressing, Vasily Alekseyev’s cleaning, Zydrunas Savickas’ overall power, Mikhail Koklyaev’s pull, Andy Bolton’s deadlifting and Mark Henry’s grip strength."
Joe Ladnier, multiple time World Champion:
- "I never met Big Jim, but he was one of the strength legends that I admired from Day 1. R.I.P. Big Jim."
- Progression of the bench press world record
- Big James Henderson
- Scot Mendelson
- Ted Arcidi
- Anthony Clark
- John Kuc
- Jon Cole
- Hugh Cassidy
- "A Perspective On The Bench Press | Poliquin Article". Charlespoliquin.com. 2012-01-13. Archived from the original on 2012-08-28. Retrieved 2012-10-16.
- "Williams Jim - powerlifting and bench press performances, records, bio, photo, video". En.allpowerlifting.com. 1971-11-06. Retrieved 2012-10-16.
- "Jim Williams - a Powerlifting Pioneer". House of Payne Powerlifting. 1993-09-26. Retrieved 2009-01-02.
- "600 Pound Unequipped Bench Press Hall of Fame". Powerlifting Watch. Retrieved 2012-10-16.
- Marty Gallagher. "Starting Strength: Iron Icons: Big Jim Williams and John Kuc" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-10-16.
- "The Scranton Superman-Jim Williams (Concluded with Part 4)". Powerlifting Watch. Retrieved 2012-10-16.
- "American Strength Legends: Don Reinhoudt". Samson-power.com. Retrieved 2012-10-16.
- "Jim Williams | IronOnline Health and Fitness Database". Davedraper.com. 1993-07-02. Archived from the original on 2012-05-24. Retrieved 2012-10-16.
- "Article One". Bigjimwilliams.com. Retrieved 2012-10-16.
- ALL TIME HISTORICAL MEN AND WOMEN’S POWERLIFTING WORLD RECORDS
- Deepsquatter. "Interview". Deepsquatter.com. Retrieved 2012-10-16.