William H. Gates, Sr.




To me, global poverty is a humanitarian issue. People are dying, and we can save them – and that ought to be enough.

William H. Gates Sr. (d. 2020) guided the vision and strategic direction of the foundation and served as an advocate for the foundation’s key issues. He first answered his son's request for help in using his resources to improve reproductive and child health in the developing world by directing the William H. Gates Foundation, which was established in 1994. It merged with the Gates Learning Foundation to create the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000.

Bill Sr. earned his bachelor's and law degrees from the University of Washington, following three years of U.S. Army service in World War II. A founding partner at Preston Gates & Ellis, Bill Sr. served as president of both the Seattle/King County Bar Association and the Washington State Bar Association. He served as trustee, officer, and volunteer for more than two dozen Northwest organizations, including the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce and King County United Way. In 1995, he founded the Technology Alliance, a cooperative regional effort to expand technology-based employment in Washington. Bill Sr. was also a strong advocate for education for many years, chairing the Seattle Public School Levy Campaign in 1971 and serving as a member of the University of Washington's Board of Regents from 1997-2012.

Bill Sr. and his first wife, Mary Maxwell Gates (d. 1994), raised three children: Kristianne, Bill, and Libby. For many years, he continued his lifelong commitment to many civic programs, cultural organizations, and business initiatives. He passed away on September 14, 2020 and is survived by his second wife, Mimi Gardner Gates, his three children, and eight grandchildren.

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