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HARBINGER
by Sam McKay
Biography of Sam LeRoy McKay


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 mouseís nest and memorialized it; Sam plowed up a hornetsí nest and did NOT memorialize it (perhaps he didnít feel the same sympathy for the hornets that Burns did for the mouse.) Growing up on a cotton farm wasnít an easy life, but Sam had many happy memories of it. In his early teens, Samís grandparents became too ill to care for him and he was passed between several relatives.

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.

Samís 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.


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