Sam was born 15 October
1913 in Mallard Creek, North Carolina. His father, Elmer Ranson McKay, was
a farmer. His mother, Mary Arlena Benfield McKay, died of tuberculosis
when Sam was two years old. He then went to live with his Benfield
grandparents. Grandpa, Daniel Ferguson Benfield, was a Confederate Army
veteran. Grandma, Hannah Angeline Robinson Benfield, knew, according to
Sam, how to cook cornbread two ways - raw and burnt.
The childhood years Sam
spent with his grandparents provided the grist for many of his stories,
but not all are chronicled here. Robert Burns plowed up a mouses nest and
memorialized it; Sam plowed up a hornets nest and did NOT memorialize it
(perhaps he didnt feel the same sympathy for the hornets that Burns did
for the mouse.) Growing up on a cotton farm wasnt an easy life, but Sam
had many happy memories of it. In his early teens, Sams grandparents
became too ill to care for him and he was passed between several
Sam attended Erskine
College, majoring in both English and philosophy. He graduated cum laude
and entered Erskine Theological Seminary, graduating cum laude in 1939.
After graduation, Sam married Martha Elizabeth Caldwell. He taught high
school in South Carolina until receiving the call to his first church.
Over the course of the next half century he served Presbyterian churches
in Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, and North Carolina.
Sams interests spread far
beyond the ministry. He had a lifelong interest in science. He often said
that the Bible is not a science text and that science does not study
religion, but that each new scientific discovery served to further prove
the grandeur and majesty of the Lord.
A serious hobby was
photography. His pictures have been used for many years to illustrate the
yearly publication of the North Carolina Poetry Society, Award-Winning Poems.
His slides of Scotland, and Mackay Country in particular, were used by him
during many talks.
Poetry was an interest
since his college days when he became aquainted with Archibald Rutledge,
then Poet Laureate of South Carolina. Later, he became involved in the
North Carolina Poetry Society. He was President of the society for two
terms, contest chairman for many years and served for twenty years as
editor and publisher of Award-Winning Poems.
In 1971 Sam was co-founder
of the Clan Mackay Society of North America (now
Clan Mackay Society USA)
and served as its first President. He continued to help guide the
development of the society for many years as Chairman of the Executive
Council. He worked closely with the Clan Mackay Society in Scotland and
was honored by them in 1992.
Sam died 3 August 1997 after several years
of declining health.