Tag Archives: Bill Clark

HOF BIO – BILL CLARK

By Al Myers

(Webmasters Note: Over the next month I will be running a series of biography blogs covering all past USAWA Hall of Fame members.  These bios will be added to the history section, under Hall of Fame.)

HALL OF FAME BIOGRAPHY

Bill Clark – CLASS OF 1999

BillClarkHOF1

Bill Clark

William Merle Clark was born in Clinton, Missouri on August 18th, 1932.  He graduated from Clinton High School in 1949, and then spent three years in the U.S. Army (1951-1954), including a year in Korea.  Bill graduated from the University of Missouri School of Journalism in 1958, and worked briefly on the sports desk of the Lexington Kentucky Leader.  He returned to Columbia Missouri in 1958, where he has lived since.  Bill married Dolores Denny on August 11th, 1955 and they have five children and five grandchildren. He was a full-time major league baseball scout for 36 years (1968-2003).  He retired from baseball at the end of the 2003 season and has been a columnist for the Columbia Daily Tribune since March of 2004.  Bill has written for numerous baseball publications through the years and even worked as a sports reporter in the baseball off-season.  He has officiated over 20 sports from the junior high school level to the international level from 1949 until today.  He wrote the original Powerlifting and All-Round Weightlifting rule books and is currently writing a book about the fun of officiating more than 10,000 athletic contests.  As a member of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) weightlifting committee (1959-1990), he was responsible for the origin of the following:

– Powerlifting as a separate sport (1964)
– Masters lifting, both Olympic Lifting and Powerlifting (1973)
– Held the first womens only Powerlifting and Olympic meets which gave the   start to women’s competitive lifting (1976)
– Introduced prison weightlifting and the acceptance of inmates as full AAU members (1966). Held the first prison weightlifting postal competition (1962)
– Created the odd lifting record book (1961)
– Formation of the USAWA and the IAWA (began in 1983, finalized in 1986)
– Wrote the first USAWA and IAWA Rule Book (1986)

Bill started weightlifting in 1959 when his boxing team was looking for an off-season sport.  There was not a state meet at the time, so he held the very first one in Columbia in 1959.  He held the Junior Nationals and the National Teenage Championships in Columbia from 1962-1964, including the “Mr.” contests for each, along with numerous state and regional meets both in Columbia and in many prisons throughout the Midwest.  He has directed over 100 meets under USAWA sanction at his gym, Clark’s Championship Gym, including the USAWA National Championships in 1995, 1997, and 2001.  Bill has been the sole sponsor of the Showme State Games Powerlifting Meet since 1988.  Both Bill and Dolores are in the Missouri State Games Volunteer Hall of Fame.  He has had a commercial gym in Columbia since 1987, which is one of very few commercial gyms in the country that specializes in All-Round Weightlifting.   Bill was the first President of the IAWA and was the Secretary of the USAWA since the beginning till 2009. He is responsible for starting the drug testing program and the certification of officials in the USAWA.  Bill has published a weightlifting newsletter since 1960, which now is over its 50th year!  For the first 20 years of the USAWA Bill was the editor and publisher of the publication “The Strength Journal”. At that time it was the sole source of information regarding All-Round Weightlifting in the US.   Bill’s main contribution to weightlifting was the origin of the masters program.  The idea came to the table in 1973 at the AAU convention, and was approved by a laugh with the mention of old people wanting  to lift and compete.  In 1974, only four lifters  entered the National Masters Meet – Jim Witt, Jack Lano, Wilbur Miller, and Bill Clark.  The Meet was cancelled that year.  In 1975, the meet was held in Columbia with 15 entries.  Today, the masters program is found in 70 nations and accepted without question.  Master lifters outnumber open lifters in the US today.  Bill was one of a half-dozen people who brought Powerlifting to the committee floor of the AAU in 1962, and saw it approved two years later as a sport by the AAU.  Today, Powerlifting has expanded far beyond Olympic Lifting as a sport.  In 1976, Bill violated the IWF rules which limited lifting to males only, and worded a sanction which made a combined Power/Olympic lifting competition into an all-female meet.  It broke the gender barrier and women’s weightlifting was off and running.  Bill commented, “In retrospect, I take pride in being the driving force to establish Powerlifting, women’s lifting, prison lifting, master’s lifting, odd lifting – and seeing them all grow and prosper.”  Bill holds over 200 records in the USAWA, with most of them occurring after multiple joint replacements. Bill said, “I do take pride in my hip and harness lifts that were done after four joints – both knees and both hips – were totally replaced and being able to remain competitive with the youngsters in the finger lifts. Age and replacements have slowed the competitive urge today, particularly with the loss of cartilage in both the upper and lower spine.”  In his earlier years, Bill was best known and seldom beaten in the Zercher and Steinborn lifts, once doing 460# in the Zercher and 455# in the Steinborn on the same day.  There has not been an USAWA member since capable of doing this.  When asked if he had any special memories of a competition, Bill replied, ” The one I most remember was in 1994 in Middletown  Pennsylvania when I made a hip lift with 1400 pounds, less than five months after I had a double joint replacement – the right knee and the right hip on the the same day – a double only a few have tried!”  Bill Clark will always be known as the “Founder of All-Round Weightlifting”, and his influences and contributions to the iron game will forever be felt.  His last comment was this, “It has been a good 50 year run in the weight game. I’m now looking for time to go through voluminous files and to do a book I’ve promised myself for years, titled, An Irreverent History of Weightlifting.”

The “Dreaded Red X”

by Thom Van Vleck

Nobody was immune to getting the dreaded Red X from Bill. Even Al got one!

Nobody was immune to getting the dreaded Red X from Bill. Even Al got one!

My roots in the USAWA go way back.  My first meet was a 1979 “Odd Lift” meet put on by the founder of the USAWA, Bill Clark.  But before that my Uncles and their friends often lifted in Clark’s meets going back to the fifties. Clark founded the USAWA but he actually didn’t start the “Odd Lifts”.  That goes back to Ed Zercher, Sr who was a great lifter in the 30’s and after.  But even before Ed was in his first contest he had a buddy in his old neighborhood in St. Louis named John Wille. In the 1920’s they hung out in the same neighborhood and they did acrobatics, lifting whatever was available, and made make shift weights out of scrap metal.

Today we look to the internet.  The USAWA has a great website.  Al Myers does a lot of work to keep this thing going and having regular updates.  But for 50 years it was “Ol’ Clark”.  Bill was old school in an old school way that made a lot of old school stuff seem new!  He never touched a computer.  For 50 years he put out old fashioned newsletters.  For you young guys, that means he typed up the newsletter on a typewriter, then he copied the news letter (on a Mimeograph and later a copy machine), and he would put them in envelopes, actually lick the stamps (because they didn’t just stick on like they do now) and mail them to your actual mailbox (not the “mailbox” that your e-mail comes to).

I remember looking through all the old newsletters my Uncles had.  Reading about the lifts, the lifters, the meets and random thoughts (and sometimes rants) that Clark would have about steroids, improper judging, or whatever he thought was undermining the integrity of the sport.  If you sent him a letter, be careful, he’d put it in the newsletter!

He operated all this on a shoe string budget and his own sweat. He probably spent a lot of his own money.  But he did ask donations.  You could get the newsletter if you sent him even just a few bucks to pay for the stamps!  He would also include in almost every newsletter a little rant about “bucking up” and make jokes about not being a deadbeat.

He would have a list of people that gave money.  He would even put how much they gave.  I think to give credit to those who gave more than their fair share because they loved the sport.  Those that gave often really valued the information and back then there was no internet and finding out much of anything about weightlifting was about impossible).  He also would “Red X” the guys who hadn’t “paid up” for some time.  He would put what he called the “Dreaded Red X” on the front of your newsletter.  It kind of reminded me how teachers would mark up your papers with red ink when you got something wrong.  The funny part was he would often keep sending guys newsletters for a long time.  Especially so if he knew someone was on hard times.  Like my Uncle Wayne.  Clark could be really nice that way.

In some ways I think Ol’ Clark got vilified a bit for his “Red X” and other things he did when he would call out guys for not following established rules. He sometimes had a way of making a remark about it the next time you would see him to let you know his displeasure….one might even call it a snide remark.

But you know what.  Now that I’m older.  Now that I’ve been in the position of running organizations that get by on shoe string budgets and I’ve put in long hours to run highland games, strongman contests, lifting meets as well as three different weightlifting clubs (Jackson Weightlifting Club, Truman State Irondogs, and the A.T. Still University Osteoblasters) as well as other Church and community organizations that ONLY happen because the people involved reach in their pockets and pull out some cash that includes more than a few drops of sweat…..I get it.

That bring me to present day.  When Ol’ Clark ran that newsletter you saw the stamp.  You knew it cost money.  You knew the paper, the ink, the copies, and all that went into it cost money so I think it was easier to see how much all of it cost.  Well, now Al Myers stepped in and took it over some 8 years ago.  He created a website, then got a better one, and did a lot of work to keep it going and at what cost.  I bet a lot more than the stamps Ol’ Clark used.  At the least, I would say both men work (worked) equally hard.

So what can you do?  Send him a few hundred bucks!  Well, that would be nice but I think the best thing we could do as an organization is support the guys that make it happen.  Not just Al, but our officers, judges, etc.  We do this by following the rules, getting meet results to Al in a timely manner, make sure our meets are as legit as we can, write a good story for the meet results for the website, maybe send Al a good story or anecdote for the website (like how people would send Clark a letter) and he’d put in on the website.  Buy Al a beer, slap him on the back….heck, I bet a thanks would go a long way.

Otherwise, people like Bill and Al get burned out.  They love a sport and after awhile they feel unappreciated and frustrated and next thing you know…..well, let’s just try and do our part and keep the USAWA great.  It’s only as great as the people who run it and the people who are a part of it AND appreciate it!

The Infamous Weightlifter’s Weekend 1979

by Thom Van Vleck

I was looking through a 1979 edition of Bill  Clark’s “Weightlifting Newsletter”.  There was a meet report for the 1979 Weightlifter’s Weekend.  This was an annual meet that included a wide range of competitions that spanned more than lifting.  Here’s a list of what was competed in the two day event:

Judd Lift, Miller C & J, Kelly Snatch, Zercher Lift, Steinborn, Zercher (again the second day), Seated Press, one hand deadlift, one hand snatch, Hack Lift, 12lb shot, 16lb shot, College Discus, 16lb Olympic Hammer, Javelin, 100, 220, 440, 880 and 1500 runs, Standing Long Jump, Running Long Jump, Triple jump (standing and running), back jump, one and two hand chinning, one and two hand pushups, Inman Mile (won by Jerry Inman), Tennis, 10K walk, Handwalking for distance, Axe throwing, Golf, and last but not least,  Bowling (singles and doubles).

The meet was won by Jerry Inman….by virtue of competing in the most events!   Bill Clark was second for pretty much the same reason.  Wayne Smith was given the top Master Award.  Some of the top lifts included a 120lb Kelly Snatch, 400lb Steinborn, 400lb right hand deadlift by Bob Burtzloff.  Bill Davis had a 505lb Zercher and 555lbs Hack lift.  My old lifting partner Jim Noble won the shot and discus (he was only 16, but was also the state high school champ in the discus).  Wayne Smith won the chin ups with 2 for the single arm and 27 for two arms as well as edging Clark out in the bowling.  I think that it’s interesting that while Jerry Inman won the “Inman Mile”….he did NOT go anywhere near a mile!

I know they held this event every year for some time.  The idea was guys would come and lay down challenge events and you either “manned up” or passed.  For example, I know Wayne Smith suggested the Ax throw.  I remember this because I worked for him cutting trees and he was great at throwing and ax which is why he laid down the challenge.  However, he could not get the ax to stick that day and was defeated….we didn’t let him hear the last of that for some time.

What would you think of a meet like that? Plenty of “real” lifts, but lots of unusual stuff.  Would you be a gamer?  Or call it crazy?  There’s no doubt those guys back then knew how to have fun!  Maybe the “WW” should make a comeback!!!!!

25 Year Promotion Award

by Al Myers

USAWA President Denny Habecker and the "first Lady of the USAWA" Judy Habecker receiving the 25 Year Promotion Award.

Another “special award” presented at Nationals was the 25 Year Promotion Award.  This award went to the 4 Meet Promoters who have promoted the most National Championships over the 25 year history of the USAWA.  These 4 promoters each have promoted 3 Championship events.  They are:  Denny and Judy Habecker (2010, 2007, & 2000), John Vernacchio (2004, 1989, & 1988), Bill Clark and Joe Garcia (2001, 1997, & 1995), and Art Montini and John McKean (2002, 1999, & 1991). 

So to sum it up – these 4 promoters together have promoted about HALF of the National Champinships to date!  That’s worthy of a special award in my book!  Congratulations!!!

Nice Rack! Part II

by Thom Van Vleck

My "Babies!

Some time ago I wrote a USAWA story called “Nice Rack” and it was about a rack of York “Globe Style” Dumbbells that Bill Clark has at Clark’s Championship Gym in Columbia, Missouri.  I jealously admired those Dumbbells and wished I had a set of my own.

As luck would have it, I came across a set for sale through my USAWA friends, namely Larry Traub.  Larry had these and made me an extremely generous offer on them that I couldn’t refuse.  Soon enough, I had them in my possession (after a detour from South Carolina thru Indiana and back to Missouri….a small price to pay!).

The "Crown Jewels" of my collection, the legendary 100lb Globes.

I took off a layer of rust, then laid down a few coats of paint and white lettered the raised “York” and poundage numbers.

I am not a collector, these will be used in my training and by anyone who trains at the JWC!  But if you use them and drop them, you might end up with an Olympic bar as a necktie!   If you break them….notify next of kin!  So, next time you come by the JWC Training Hall…CHECK’em out!  Oh, and once again….Thanks Larry, you made me very happy and they will take these when they pry my cold dead hands from around them!

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