Sam Queen was born in 1889 in Waynesville. Haywood County has long been an area rich in traditional dance. Queen learned to clog from his grandmother, Sally, who was known to dance even in her late nineties. Square dances were a vital part of a community’s social life when Queen was growing up, and in addition to his skills as a clogger, Queen learned to be a master dance caller.
Queen founded the Soco Gap Dance Team, a prominent area clogging group who danced a smooth shuffle-step in traditionally-based square formations. The team performed and competed widely, and were the winners of the first square dance competition at the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival, held in Asheville in 1928. They would go on to capture more such titles at the festival than any other team.
In 1939, when the King and Queen of England made their first visit to America, the Roosevelts engaged Bascom Lamar Lunsford, founder of the Mountain Dance and Folk Festival, to assemble a group of performers to entertain the royal visitors at the White House. Among those he invited were the Soco Gap Dance Team, who performed their Haywood County style of dance for the assembled dignitaries.
When Sam Queen died in 1969, more than 5,000 people attended his memorial service. He is still well remembered in the region, both as a man and as an innovator in one of the area’s most important traditional arts.