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Peg Leg Bates honored in SC

E. RICHARD WALTON | 9/19/2013, 5:08 p.m.

David Vickery, a retired educator who served on the Peg Leg Bates Committee, said the dancer, who was raised by a single sharecropper mother, would be the perfect motivator for today’s handicapped folks. “He could inspire them,” he said.

After the amputation, Bates, who began dancing at age 5, used broomsticks to help him perform until his uncle returned from World War I and fashioned a “peg leg” for him. There are stories of how Bates reportedly ran five miles almost daily with stumps or broomsticks as a teen to stay in shape.

Bates later presented that original peg leg to a friend, historian Ruth Ann Butler, the founder and president of the Greenville Cultural Exchange Exchange Center, which has a variety of Black history-related artifacts, pictures and volumes.

Along with his wife, Alice E. Bates, the dancer owned the Peg Leg Bates Country Club in the Catskill Mountains from 1951 to 1987.

Dale Perry, a retired Greenville journalist who’d interviewed Bates several times when he returned to Fountain Inn to visit relatives, was a prime mover behind installing the Bates sculpture.

Perry, who saw Bates on “The Ed Sullivan Show,” said he was moved by Bates, his humility and his sense of humor. “I always had an interest in him,” Perry said.

Thompson said he appreciated being asked to honor Bates. “It’s just a remarkable story,” he said. 

One person said this of Bates: “Peg was a great, great rhythm dancer ... his exits alone would stop the show.”