William H. Gates II, a lawyer and philanthropist who was the father of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, died in ’94. Gates died peacefully Monday at his Washington State beach home from Alzheimer’s disease, his family announced Tuesday.
In an obituary, the family credited the patriarch with a “deep commitment to social and economic justice,” noting that he was responsible for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s initial efforts to improve global health. The family also touched on his spokesman for progressive taxation, particularly his failed efforts to pass a state income tax to the wealthy in Washington.
Born in 1925, Gates Sr. grew up. up in Bremerton, Washington, where his parents owned a furniture store. During World War II, he joined the Army after his first year of study at the University of Washington and was on his way to Japan when it surrendered in 1945.
He served a year in war-torn Tokyo before returning to the United States and resuming his education, his family said. After earning his law degree in 1950, he began working in private practice and as a part-time attorney in Bremerton City.
He formed a law firm in Seattle with two other partners that eventually became Preston Gates and Ellis – now known as K & L Gates, one of the world’s largest law firms. The company was one of the first to work with the region’s technology industry.
Gates Sr. met his first wife, Mary Maxwell, at the University of Washington. They had two daughters and a son – Gates Jr. – and was married until her death in 1994. Two years later he married Mimi Gardner, then director of the Seattle Art Museum, with whom he spent the last quarter of a century of his life. .
“When I was a kid, he was not prescription or dominant, and yet he never let me go on with things I was good at, and he always pushed me to try things I hated or did not think I could (swimming and football, for example), “wrote Gates Jr. in tribute. “And he modeled an amazing work ethic. He was one of the hard-working and most respected lawyers in Seattle as well as a great civic leader in our region.”
This civic work included serving as curator of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, Planned Parenthood and United Way and as regent of the University of Washington, where he headed fundraising drives. He also served as president of the state and local bar associations and as the leader of the American Bar Association, helping create diversity scholarships and promoting legal services to the poor.
“Bill Sr. was a person who was interested in the situation of many, and he had the resources and the infinite civic commitment to do something about it,” Washington Governor Jay Inslee said in a statement. “He chose to use his wealth and influence to speak for and improve the equity of our society.”
Gates Sr. was a towering figure by reputation and personal – he stood 6 feet 7 tall – and his advice was often sought. Former Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz has said that when he struggled to raise the money to buy the six-chain coffee chain in 1987, Gates Sr. went bankrupt. in to save him from a competing buyer – not only by investing, but by personally taking Schultz to visit the rival, demanding as he threatened over the rival’s desk: “You are going to stand down and this child will realize his dream. Do you understand me? “
Gates withdrew from the law in 1998, taking on prominent roles with the Gates Foundation and helping launch his global health work.
The family said that due to restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, a memorial service would be held later.