Iron History

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12/11/2003 Entry: "Dec 12, 2004"

Please keep in mind the free forum at and join us if you feel inclined to. One of the matters we concern ourselves with at is the preservation of accurate record keeping. That brings us to this week's examination:

Roy Hilligenn. Facts/Fiction/Fusion! Born Nov 15, 1922, but WHERE!!
By Joe Roark

MuscleMag International in January 2003 presented a Star Profile interview with Roy. In that article are presented some statements which completely disagree with statements that have been presented in the past regarding Roy.

This week let's dig for facts from that MuscleMag mishmash and other sources!

"Everyone thinks I'm from South Africa, but I wasn't born there. I was born in California on November 15, 1922." That, of course, would mean that Roy is a U.S. citizen. But for years he has been listed as the only non-American to win the AAU Mr. America (June 15, 1951 in Los Angeles). Osmo Kiiha interviewed Roy some years ago and quoted Roy as saying, "How come I could win the AAU Mr. A., never mind allowed to compete (sic) not being a U.S. citizen at the time."

Really? Hilligenn wrote in Your Physique Jul 1950 that "I was born in 1922 in King Williamstown, South Africa, a beautiful, fertile, agricultural town."

And compare the above to S&H Feb 1963 p 12 where a profile on Roy by Jenkins includes: "He was the only foreign citizen ever to win this title [Mr. America]. Hilligenn was born and raised in South Africa�"]

Also compare to Health & Strength Apr 16, 1953 p 23 by John Mendes, "Bosco writes me that he may be sponsoring Roy Hilligenn as an American citizen. Roy, as you know, is a South African by birth. But he has made his home in the States (in 1951 he collared the Mr. America title) and is now applying for citizenship."

But H&S in the July 9, 1953 issue page 25 reveals from Mendes that "A flash from British United Press says that Roy Hilligenn, 1951 Mr. America, is being deported from the States because he is not a US citizen.

"The immigration director in San Francisco says Hilligenn is at Vancouver awaiting transport back to his native South Africa.

"He said Hilligenn was found to have entered the United States from Canada in 1948 on a 28-day visa to take part in a New York weightlifting contest.

"He admitted Hilligenn never attempted to change his name or to conceal his South African birth."

There is more but the point has been made which The Chicago Bodybuilder editor Norb Grueber headlined in March 1949, "Mr. South Africa Comes to Chicago."

Roy told Lori Grannis (MuscleMag writer) that he left South Africa in 1947, and indeed his letter to Strength & Health magazine in the April 1945 issue page 10 was sent from Jeppe, Johannesburg, Transvaal, S. Africa., and in the letter he claims to have won 'South Africa's Best Developed Man', 'South Africa's Finest Physique', and 'Best All Round Athlete'. One wonders regarding the requirements for citizenship to win those titles.

Health & Strength magazine in the July 17, 1947 issue page 546 presented a full page photo of Roy as Mr. South Africa 1946.

From S&H Oct 1951, after recounting his childhood in South Africa, he then adds, "I saw my way clear in 1946 to travel abroad. Before coming to America I spent approximately a year in England." A few paragraphs later he avers that "My first show in the USA was at John Terlazzo's display." A few sentences later "Later I migrated to California�" and "In 1949 I entered my first contest in America, the 'Mr. California' event. I placed third in this." (this contradicts what he told Grannis years later in MMI)

Photo page 229 informs that 'Roy won five of the six trophies at the Mr. Pacific Coast, 1950.' In fact, Roy won the Mr. Pacific Coast May 28, 1949

P 230 "When I was at 159 pounds in 1945, I clean[ed] and jerk[ed] 341, which equaled the world record."

Other claims: Won Mr. San Francisco 1949 [that was won by Jim Allen Nov 13, 1949] See Ironman Jan 1950 p 7

Won Mr. Northern California 1949 [that was won by Ellwood Holbrook Feb 26, 1949] see Strength & Health May 1949 p 43

Won Mr. California 1949 [that was won by Milton Lippman Apr 30, 1949] see Muscle Poswer Sep 1949 p 13

Third place Mr. California 1950 [on Mar 18, 1950 third place was Alvin Lee] Hilligenn did not participate.

Won Mr. California 1951 [ Apr 14, 1951, winner was Malcom Brenner ]

At 1950 Jr. National Weightlifting championships he broke John Davis' record clean and jerk, making 365. In fact, on Apr 30, 1950 Roy placed second to John Farbotnik in the Jr. Mr. America contest. Hilligenn did not compete in the 1950 Jr. Nats, and no one who did managed a 365 clean and jerk. See S&H Jul 1950 p 47. 49.

[ for perspective, consider: In 1950 at the World's Weightlifting Championships in Paris Oct 13-15, the heaviest C&J was by American John Davis, who managed 374.75 lbs, thereby attaining the highest total ever then accumulated: 1,019.25 lbs. Six months earlier, Roy had come within 9 lbs of this feat? In fairness, Roy was an incredible lifter in the C&J and has been credited with 350, and a 255 lb press, and 250 snatch]

So what is the point of all this? Collect old magazines and watch how the story details evolve!