Just Who Was Karo Whitfield?

by Thom Van Vleck

I am currently working on a story on Karo Whitfield that I hope will be in MILO at some point.  My Uncle Phil Jackson, one of the original Jackson Weightlifting Club members, was stationed in Alabama in the mid 60’s on both ends of a year long tour in Vietnam as a member of the US Air Force.
During that time, Phil got to meet a lot of the greats of that era that lived in the south.  Most notabley Paul Anderson and Bob Peoples, but also Frank Zane (who my Uncle called “Chicken Legs Zane”), Joe Dube’, and others.  He also traveled every chance he got to train at Karo Whitfield’s Health Club in Atlanta.  He has copies of routines that Karo gave him.
Karo may have been one of the most influencial people ever in the iron game and if we talk only about the South in the US, he may be the single most influencial person ever.  He is often credited with helping Paul Anderson early in his career as well as coaching and sponsoring many great lifters, but his training and coaching went far beyond weightlifting as he trained and coached athletes from many different sports.
I am currently interviewing my Uncle Phil on Karo and his personality.  He was the classic old school coach using sarcasm and whit to motivate his students and deal with situations.  An example of this was a time when an AAU official was addressing some lifters and one had his wife and baby there, the baby was crying and finally the official commented on it.  Karo immediate said, “You’d cry too if you had to look at such an ugly face for so long”.  My Uncle said that you either loved him or hated him….and he pretty much didn’t care which as long as he got you to your goal.
Karo passed away in 1977 after a long and storied career that reached as far back as the 1932 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. If anyone knew Karo, or has info on him, please contact me via the message board of at tvanvleck@yahoo.com.  This guy deserves to be given credit for what he did for the iron game!

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