2020 Virginia Strength and Power HoF Early History of Virginia Weightlifting

By Glen Shelton

James A. Strosnider Jr. (1923-2013) had saved several documents that were given to me (Glen Shelton) by his son John Steven Strosnider. I have retyped the document that provides a brief history of a few early Virginia Weightlifting Clubs.  I believe the original document was typed by Virginia’s first Weightlifting Chairman, Dr. Howard Lee James. James A Strosnider Jr. was coached by Dr. James and competed for Dr. James club. I strongly believe James  A. Strosnider Jr. was given the original document by Dr. Howard Lee James. Here is the untitled document typed as close to the original as possible including typo’s.

         Dr. James Health Club is the outgrowth of many years of constant interest and effort in health building. The progress made by the young men of Winchester,  belonging to the Health Club, has prompted this recapitulation of events leading to the organization of this outstanding healthbuilding  institution. Some of the most noteworthy records of the athletes of the past are given to show that the athletes of today are much more efficient than those of past years.

            The first barbell club in Virginia and one of the earliest in this county was organized in Alexandria, Va.,  in 1919, by Mr. John Kelley and Dr. James. Until this time the use of barbells for exercise and strength exhibitions was used almost entirely by strong men of the vaudeville and circus. The athletic scope covered by the Alexandria Athletic Club included barbell exercise, hand balancing, pyramid building, acrobatics, and strength exhibitions. Later Gymnastic work was included, also boxing and wrestling.      Due to the strain of the heavy lifting on the building the landlord soon gave notice that the club would have to find some other building for its use. This proved to be a problem as the property owners refused to have their buildings destroyed.

           The club was reorganized in 1920 as the Four A Club or the American Amateur Athletic Assn.        The name was changed to the Triple-A.C. the following year because of a religious organization having  the same name. The club grew from a membership of six members to 75 in two years time.   The Sunday School annex of the M.E. Church had been the meeting place up to this time when it became necessary to look for more room.  Through the interest and influence of Rev. Wm. S. Hammond the church built a gymnasium in the basement of the new Sunday School building. The club turned out many athletes that won as Eddie Scot t, wrestling champion of the Atlantic Fleet U.S.N.; Doug Peyton, C.M.T.C.  boxing champion;  Vernon Vickers excelled at cable stretching for several years; John and Tom Kelley, Howard Lanham an Dr. James made a fine reputation as hand-balancers and tumblers.   After continued study in acrobatics, Dr. James joined with the Martin Brothers Tumblers Supreme, which took him away from the club and after a year or so the club disorganized due to lack of proper instruction.  In 1926, Dr. James was forced to give up Tumbling and all athletic work due to a fall while performing on the flying rings during one of his acts. He continued the following year as instructor of the National College Gymnasium.    In the following order, he continued as instructor in the Austral Barbell Co., Iowa Acrobatic School and in 1931 organized the Winchester Barbell Club which developed into the Men’s Health Club. After the Men’s Athletic Club disbanded, Dr. James Health Club was organized and has now become one of the best Barbell Clubs in the country.   Edwin Lillis, one of its members, established the first official Virginia Record, September 1939.  It is listed by Vim Magazine  and the Health Foundation as one of the best places to train for health and also indorsed by Bob Hoffman, editor of the Strength and Health Magazine and President of the York Barbell Co.  The Amateur Athletic Union of the United States has given its praise to the work the club has done and has selected Dr. James as a member of the Board of Governors of the U.S.   A.A.U. and Va. Weightlifting Chairman . The records of the Winchester  boys are as follows:

            Open records include competition with neighboring states.

                Charles Lillis – 148 pound Champion – press 175, snatch 180, C.&j. 240

                                                                                                                      TOTAL 595

                Edwin Lillis -    123 lb, - Record – Snatch, 125


Virginia State Records

      Edwin Lillis – 123 lb.            -        Press,   115 – Snatch, 125 – C. & J.  150 –

                                                                                                                 Total 390


      Dr. H. L. James  -  132 lb.    -        Press,  150     


      Charles Lillis       -  148 lb.   -         Press,  175  -  Snatch, 180  -  C. & J. 240 –

                                                                                                                   Total  595


      John Kelley       -   181 lb.     -        Press,  170  -  Snatch, 180

Health Club records and improvement records.     The Club Champions from its first organization are:

1919  to  1922

                         John Kelley                  181)

                                                                                  160       140       220     520

                         Tom Kelley                  181)


                         Dr. James                    165)

                                                                                  130       115       200     445               

                         Vernon Vickers          148)


                         Howard Lanham        148)

                                                                                  125       120       200    445

                         Douglas Peyton         165)


1923 to  1929

                      Kermit Smith                 HW           140        125      200     465

                      Walt Martin                   181           175        145      260     580

                      John Kelley                     181           185        170      230     585

                      Dr. James                        165           160        140      210     510

                      Bob Martin                     165           165        155      250     570

                      Jess Bodner                    132           120          95      170     385


1931 to  1937

                     Edwin Lillis                      112              95          75      130     300

                     Taylor Simpson              148            115        115      150     380

                      John Taylor                   HW)

                      Carl Campbell               HW)           130        125       180     435

                      Doug Cather                  HW)

                      Miller McDonald          148             130       135        200    465               Aug. -470

                      Judge Tavenner            HW             125       120        210    455       April,  1938

                      Charles Lillis                  148             130        135        180    445




1937 to  1940

                      Edwin Lillis                    126             115         125      150    390 

                      Dr. James                      132             150         135      175     460

                      Charles Lillis                 148              175         180      240    595

                      Miller McDonald         165              145         145      210    500

                      Garland Whitlock        165              170         160      190    525

                      Pinkey Allen                 181        

                      Bedgit                            165              140          135      175    450(July-150-120-150)


                      Phil O’Rear                    132              140           125      160    425(July-130-110-140)


                      Charles Johnson          HW               180           180      240     600

                      Fred mason                  HW               180           185      240     605



Improvement of the Present Club Champions


Charles J. Lillis  -  Open and Va. State 140lb. Champion

         April, 1937                        95     75     125      295

         April, 1938                      130   135     180      445

         August, 1938                  140   140     190      470

         March, 1939                   145   145     190      480








Author: By Strength and Power Hall of Fame | Created: Sun Oct 25 23:38:44 UTC 2020 | Last Updated: Sun Jul 04 16:16:05 UTC 2021