Paul Starrett Sample was born in Louisville, Kentucky in 1894, but spent his youth living with his family in practically every section of the country. He studied at Dartmouth College, where he was an outstanding athlete, particularly a boxer, and a good saxophonist. He spent the last year of World War I in the Navy and returned to Dartmouth to graduate. Soon afterward, he developed tuberculosis and spent the next four years at a sanitarium in the Adirondack Mountains, where he settled on a painting career. When he regained his health, he studied art with Jonas Lie in 1923.
Sample worked in a regionalist style, with life in rural New England, especially Vermont, dominating his oeuvre. During his career, Sample exhibited with Feragil Galleries and then Associated American Artists and Vose Galleries in Boston. He also exhibited frequently at the National Academy, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, the Carnegie Institute, and the Worcester Museum. He had many other successful solo and group shows during his long career.