SEATTLE – William H. Gates II, a lawyer and philanthropist best known as the father of Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, has died at 94.
Gates died peacefully Monday at his beach home in Washington state from Alzheimer's disease, the family announced Tuesday.
In an obituary the family credited the patriarch with a “deep commitment to social and economic equity,” noting that he was responsible for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's first efforts to improve global health as well as his advocacy for progressive taxation, especially unsuccessful efforts to pass a state income tax on the wealthy in Washington.
“My dad’s wisdom, generosity, empathy, and humility had a huge influence on people around the world,” Bill Gates wrote in a tribute.
Born in 1925, Gates Sr. grew up in Bremerton, Washington, where his parents owned a furniture store. He joined the Army following his freshman year at the University of Washington and was en route 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 Bremerton city attorney.
He formed a Seattle law firm 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 firm 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 remained married until her death in 1994. Two years later he married Mimi Gardner, then the director of the Seattle Art Museum, with whom he spent the last quarter-century of his life.