Union leader Sam Church died in Bristol, Tennessee, on July 14, 2009, at age 72.
He was a native of Matewan in Mingo County. Both of his grandfathers had been coal miners as had his father—before becoming a barber.
In 1965, Church became a miner in Virginia and joined the United Mine Workers of America. In 1975, UMWA President Arnold Miller named Church to his staff. Church was elected vice-president of the UMWA in 1977 and moved into the presidency in 1979 following Miller’s resignation.