IronMan, Vol 19, No 2, Page 9, October 1959

Persistence Pays Off

for Harry Johnson

"Mr. America 1959"

by Peary Rader

A MOST amazing thing happened on the night of August 1, at the Fair Grounds in York, Pa. For the Mr. America contest was held there and with 30 of the best built men in the USA competing for the big title, Harry Johnson, who has been entering these events for many years, found himself under the spot lights receiving the trophy and title, almost without knowing what was happening. There has never been a more surprised man at a Mr. America contest than Harry that night. To say that he was almost shocked numb by his good fortune would be putting it mildly and Harry tells me that he was in a daze for several days after. I've never seen a man happier at winning the big title. We are sure that Harry, a man of high ideals and principles, will be a real credit to the game. He mentioned the crowd of young fellows who crowded around for his autograph after the contest and his great desire to set a high ideal for these teenagers, as he wears the crown in the limelight for this coming year, a year that can be the greatest of Harry Johnson's life.

Harry Johnson is the oldest man ever to win the title, being 35, married and the father of 4 children, 1 boy and 3 girls. His wife is much interested in his training and has been a big help to him over the years, encouraging him when he became discouraged at not winning a higher place or title after the great amount of work he put in at training.

Harry did not start out as a 97 lb. weakling, but was an average, healthy boy who participated in athletics. He was on the All State football team where he played guard. He won a scholarship to Notre Dame and Georgia Tech. He ran the 100 yard dash in 10.5 seconds without practice. Harry was able to attend Georgia State University for only 1½ years, as other obligations interfered.

Harry says that one of his greatest inspirations was his father, who neither smoked nor drank, and taught Harry to refrain from these bad habits. He credits his father with the high ideals he lives by today.

Harry started barbell training in 1944 and says that John Grimek is his ideal and inspiration ill the bodybuilding field. He was already a rather husky young fellow from his various athletic pursuits but he made rapid progress with the barbells and soon found himself good enough to enter and win contests, the first being the Mr. Physical Fitness contest in high school then the Mr. Atlanta contest in 1947, Mr. Chattanooga and Mr. South in 1948. In 1954 he won the Best Built Weightlifter of the South and also the Most Muscular and the Mr. Southern States title the same year. 1954 was a big year for Harry, he won the Jr. Mr. America title and was 5th in the Mr. America contest. In 1955 he was 4th in the Mr. America contest then the next year's Mr. America contest he was 6th. He tied for 3rd. place in the Mr. Universe contest in Virginia Beach. He was third in the Mr. America contest held at Datona Beach. In 1958 he did not enter because of the sickness of his daughter. That brought him up to the present contest of 1959 in York, Pa.

Always at the many contests when we would meet Harry, he would ask us what he needed yet to put him in the winner's class and we always stressed that he needed more bulk while still retaining his present definition and shape. The afternoon before the contest in York, Harry was out at the Fair Grounds getting some sun and we snapped a few photos and talked with Harry and he told us that he had added about 15 lbs. bodyweight for more bulk and it was easy to see that he had retained or improved his shape. He was completely unaware that he was going to win the title and we talked of what he ought to do to improve still more for the coming year. Of course we now know that there will be no coming year for Harry in the Mr. America competition for he has reached the top.

After he won the title, we asked Harry what his plans for the future were and he mentioned that he would like to go to England and compete for the Mr. Universe title.

Harry has no particular desire to open a gym and try to make a quick and easy fortune as some other winners have. He works at the Lockheed Aircraft factory as a tool maker and is quite happy with his work. He has also been working 6 nights per week in addition but tells us he is stopping this as it is too rough and doesn't allow much time for training or family life. Harry lives in Decatur, Georgia and has been training at the gym of Karo Whitfield.


Harry says that his favorite exercise is the situp and he never feels he has had a complete workout without doing a lot of situps and leg raises.

In training for this contest, Harry worked out 5 nights per week and used 16 exercises. He took just 2 hours for each workout but never rested between exercises, going through the program as fast as possible. He and training partners tried to outdo each other in poundages, reps, and speed of going through their programs. This makes an amazingly rugged program and you wonder how he made the progress he did while working at the factory and then at night also. This method of working out develops great endurance as well as a fine physique. He weighed about 200 at the start and trimmed down to 185 for the contest.

Harry used 16 exercises in this program as follows:

Bench press, 3 sets, 15 reps with 250 lbs.
Incline press, 3 sets, 12 reps, 85 lb. dumbells.
Decline bench press, 3 sets, 12 reps, 85 lb. dumbells.
Press from behind neck, 3 sets, 12 reps, 125 lbs.
2 arm dumb ell press, 3 sets with 85 lbs.
Chin behind neck, 3 sets of 15 reps.
Bent over rowing with dumbell, 3 sets of 12
Bent over rowing with dumbell, 3 sets of 12 reps, with 75 lbs.
Barbell curl, 3 sets of 12 reps, with 135.
Concentration curl with dumbell, 3 sets with 50 and 40 lb. dumbells.
Handstand pushups on bench, 3 sets, 15 reps.
Triceps curl, 3 sets with 80 for 12 reps.
Triceps pushdown on pulley weights, 3 sets of 12 reps. with 120 lbs.
Hack lift on Hack machine, 3 sets of 15 reps with 370.
4 sets of toe raises on calf machine.
1,000 situps per workout in sets of 500.
4 sets of leg raises with iron boots

Some program, huh? Especially when you consider that he performed this program 5 nights per week for the past month, and went through it without any rest between exercises.

His usual schedule is 3 nights per week and he varies his workout programs somewhat by using different exercises. At the time of winning the contest, his measurements were as follows: height, 5'9"; weight, 186 lbs.; arm, 17; neck, 17; chest, 48; waist, 30; thigh, 25; calf, 16¾. You will note that Harry is not in the habit of exaggerating his measurements. At about 200 lbs. bodyweight when he was rather bulky he had the following measurements: arm, 18¼; chest, 50½; waist, 34; and thigh 26¼.

In 1953 Harry won the 198 lb. class in the Southern Championships with a record press of 235 (the record held for several years), snatch of 230 and clean and jerk of 295. He was in training for heavy squats doing 10 full squats with 400, and 35 reps with 335. He did 1 squat with 530 and was trying for a world record until Paul Anderson came on the scene around Harry's locality and lifting against this human derrick was rather discouraging. Harry has bench pressed 360, done dips on parallel bar 6 to 8 reps with 140 (this is a really outstanding power lift and few men could equal it).

Harry and his beautiful wife, Joyce, make a fine couple and they have an unusually happy family life. They are the kind of people who will go out of their .way to help someone else. They have no ambitions to be the biggest or the best or the richest or the most famous in the world. They just want to be good people, good neighbors, and enjoy the quiet pleasure of bringing happiness to the world by the good deeds they can do others.

We, of Iron Man, salute Joyce and Harry Johnson and their family. We wish that there were more clean, Christian families like theirs in the USA and we hope that their example will generate enthusiasm in others for their kind of life. Thank you, Harry Johnson, for being the man you are. We are proud of you.


- The photo above, taken by Weber, shows the fine shapely physique that the new Mr. America owns. The color photo on opposite page was taken by Douglas White on the day Harry won the title.

- Harry Johnson is an excellent poser and as can be seen by the photo above, has a very fine back development.

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