Rutherford County’s Thomas Maupin received a 2017 National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. An elegant master of flatfoot buck dancing, Maupin brings his art to music contests and festivals throughout the South.
The NEA held an awards ceremony on Sept. 14 at the Library of Congress, followed by a Sept. 15 concert at George Washington University to celebrate the 2017 National Heritage Fellowships.
Born in 1938 in rural Eagleville, Tenn., Maupin was surrounded by dancers on both sides of his family. Along with older relatives and his nine brothers and sisters, he “traded steps” as a child at domestic and community square dances. His maternal grandmother, Will, lived with the family and danced in a flatfoot—often barefoot—unadorned country style. Her influence on Maupin was strong, and today, more than her movement, it is her sound—the metric thud of heel meeting wooden floor—that he remembers.
Over his career, Maupin won several national and regional championships in buck dancing, clogging and freestyle dance as well as state championships in Tennessee, Kentucky, Georgia, Alabama and Indiana.
In the 2000s, Maupin began a musical partnership with his grandson Daniel Rothwell, an award-winning traditional banjo player.
The NEA National Heritage Fellowships recognize the recipients’ artistic excellence and support their continuing contributions to our nation’s traditional arts heritage.