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Peg Leg Bates — Fountain Inn, South Carolina

SC Picture Project  |  Greenville County  |  Peg Leg Bates

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Peg Leg Bates

Clayton “Peg Leg” Bates was born in the small town of Fountain Inn in 1907. His love for tap dancing began at the age of five, and he became a legendary tap dancer despite a tragic cotton mill accident that left him with one leg at the age of 12. This statue located in his hometown memorializes Bates and his accomplishments. The work was sculpted by Joe Thompson, South Carolina Governor’s School of Arts and Humanities Visual Arts Department Chair.

Peg Leg Bates

Travis & Adelle Graham of Greenville, 2011 © Do Not Use Without Written Consent

After Bates lost his leg, his uncle carved a wooden peg for him to use since Bates was determined to continue dancing despite his disability. He despised people pitying him, and strove to be better than most two-legged dancers. Bates began doing shows in carnivals and minstrel shows, and his success eventually landed him spots in vaudeville circuits by the age of 15.

Known for his mix of acrobatic moves, powerful tapping rhythm, and gracefulness, Bates quickly established a successful career as a tap dancer. During the 1930s he was a featured dancer in Harlem nightclubs and lit up the Broadway stage with his unique take on classic tap steps. Bates broke down many racial barriers while he was touring, and famously made over 20 appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show during the 1950s and 1960s.

When he wasn’t lighting up the stage, Bates spent time with his wife and child. He also owned and operated the largest African-American resort in the country – the Peg Leg Country Club in Kerhonkson, New York. The popular resort catered to black clientele and often featured many jazz musicians and tap dancers. Peg Leg Bates eventually sold the property in 1989, but continued to spread his philosophy of overcoming adversities by speaking to children and handicapped groups.

Bates received the Flo-Bert Award in 1991, the Distinguished Leadership in the Arts award in 1992, and the Order of the Palmetto award in 1998. Peg Leg Bates passed away in the December of 1998 in his hometown of Fountain Inn.

Peg Leg Bates Info

Address: Fairview Street at Main Street, Fountain Inn, SC 29644
GPS Coordinates: 34.694779,-82.200363

Peg Leg Bates Map

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10 Comments about Peg Leg Bates

SC Picture Project says:
March 26th, 2019 at 11:15 am

We did a search online but did not immediately find any mention of him living in Alabama. His family may have at one point but we have not been able to verify this yet.

Jonathan Nickles says:
March 25th, 2019 at 9:24 am

Did Clayton (Peg Leg) and/or his family ever live in Mobile, Alabama? As a kid, I remember him living on the block above us.

Stefanie says:
March 4th, 2019 at 7:09 pm

My family was very fortunate to host family reunions at the county club. Those memories will be cherished forever.

An Ohio family

Angela Wynter says:
October 24th, 2018 at 1:19 pm

Is Clayton “Peg Leg” Bates related to the Mr. Bates that had a large farm on Telfair Street? I think the road name changed a few times to Redmond Lane near Hollywood Drive. My grandfather had land that backed up to Bates property, Joe Edgar Redmond is his name.

Kirby Thompson says:
May 6th, 2016 at 4:47 pm

When Peg Leg Bates was married to Virginia Lewis in Winston-Salem, NC, a parade was held for him in the black community. I am a Thompson whose relatives were Putman and Sanders from Fountain Inn. My uncle, Ernest Thompson, was married to his first wife’s sister, Bessie Mae Lewis. My father, Harold, and his brother were born in Laurens County and grew up with the Putmans/Sanders before moving to North Carolina. Their aunt, Bertha Sanders, stayed in touch. She lived at #7 Minus Street in Greenville until her death. Our cousin JoAnn currently lives at #4 Merrifield Street, in Greenville.

Debbie Tripp says:
April 29th, 2016 at 7:50 pm

This is an awesome way of introducing SC. Thank you .. I live in Fountain Inn.

Mart Harrod says:
February 24th, 2016 at 11:03 am

Thanks for sharing this information ~

Phillip E. Posey says:
February 5th, 2014 at 4:30 pm

I would like to have any following comments.

Melodye says:
November 2nd, 2018 at 10:19 pm

Yes that is where she spent the last 7 years of her life, after a fall from her rocking chair off the front porch of her home on Ware Street. Thank you for remembering my grandmother. She was indeed a fine lady!

Phillip E. Posey says:
February 5th, 2014 at 4:29 pm

We lived next door to Emma Bates, Peg’s mother, on Ware Street in Greenville. She was a fine lady and we thought the world of her. The last time that we saw her was in the extended care facility at the corner of Vardry and Anderson Streets in Greenville.


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