Peg Leg Bates – Fountain Inn, South Carolina

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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 and 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 (see a video of Peg Leg Bates dancing).

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

Peg Leg Bates Map

Peg Leg Bates – Add Info and More Photos

The purpose of the South Carolina Picture Project is to celebrate the beauty of the Palmetto State and create a permanent digital repository for our cultural landmarks and natural landscapes. We invite you to add additional pictures (paintings, photos, etc) of Peg Leg Bates, and we also invite you to add info, history, stories, and travel tips. Together, we hope to build one of the best and most loved SC resources in the world!

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2 Comments about Peg Leg Bates

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

I would like to have any following comments.

Phillip E. PoseyNo Gravatar 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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