History of the Spoon Barbell Club
In August of 1974, four lifters came together to compete in what was, at the time, considered a weightlifting meet. The site of the meet was at the Rains County Fair, in East Texas, and the lifting took place on dirt, instead of a platform. The four lifters were Tom and Vernon Witherspoon, Sam Walker and Phil Hall. Tom Witherspoon had been a track and field athlete at SMU, Sam was the High School shot put record holder from Dallas Samuel High School, and was the first high school athlete to throw the shot over 70 feet. Phil Hall was also a shot putter. The competition was more of an exhibition than an actual weightlifting meet. But, the seeds were planted in that dirt field for a weightlifting team that was to last for decades.
Tom’s brother, Vernon, left the sport and another track athlete, Glenn Derwin, came on the scene. Glenn was an excellent javelin thrower and along with Tom, Sam and Phil they would begin training together out of Tom’s garage in Richardson, Texas. It was a two car garage, barely, with plywood laid down on the floor to lift on, along with a squat rack. These were pre rubber bumper plate days, so dropping the iron weights made a heck of a racket and didn’t do much for the concrete floor.
The next meet was the Arkansas Invitational, held on October 19, 1974, in Little Rock. There was no team championship trophy being awarded, as was the case, in most local meets. This meet was to mark the last time Richard Flemming would lift for the Travis Barbell Club of Dallas. By Saturday of the following week Richard had packed up his equipment and began training in Tom’s garage along with Sam, Phil and Glenn. The thoughts of forming a team began to fill the air.
Sam Walker was the first to suggest organizing a team, especially with such a good nucleus to work from. The five lifters put their heads together and came up with a name for the team, and thus, The Dallas Spoon Barbell Club was born. It’s obvious where the name originated from, and it was only fitting, since Tom had been instrumental in bringing the whole thing together, by allowing his garage to be turned into a makeshift gym. Subsequently, there was a meet that would be held in Rains County, Texas called the Rains Invitational. It was to be held on January 25, 1975. About this time, Jim Napier had heard about the team from Richard Flemming. Jim was living in Arlington at the time, and he decided to join the team and work-out at Tom’s gym, whenever possible. The Rains Invitational was The Dallas Spoon Barbell Club’s first meet to enter as an official team.
The next meet was the Tulsa Invitational. The Spoon Barbell Club was not even considered a contender for the team title, by the team members or the competition. The best that was expected was a possible third place trophy, and more emphasis was being placed on the Texas State Meet in March, of that year. The Tulsa Invitational was held on February 15, 1975 and became the biggest surprise to everyone when The Spoon Barbell Club placed 1st as a team. The foundation was laid with Tom Witherspoon, Sam Walker, Richard Flemming, Phil Hall, Glenn Derwin and Jim Napier, to raise the standard of excellence in the sport of weightlifting in Texas.
Tom moved into his new home, also in Richardson, Texas, and the team had acquired the new rubber bumper plates. Tom built two platforms and several squat racks. The new facility was much improved over the old gym and the atmosphere became electric. In 1977, The Dallas Spoon Barbell Club took second place, to the York Barbell Club, and was only beat out of first by a few points, at the National Championships, in Culver City, California. The team consisted of Tom Witherspoon, Glenn Derwin, Jim Napier, Richard Flemming, Phil Hall and Sam Walker.
During the years from 1974 to 1977, Sam walker made the 1976 Olympic Team (photo above, 3rd from right), and won Nationals in 1977. Jim Napier established two American Records in the snatch and qualified for the World Championships in 1977. Since those early years, The Spoon Barbell Club has continued to train and produce great lifters, like Chad Vaughn, who has been in both the 2004 and 2008 Olympics and has been a nine time National Champion, and established an American record in the clean & jerk with 190k, in the 77k class.