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William Gates Sr., a guiding hand of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, dies at the age of 94



He had Alzheimer’s, his family said in a statement announcing the death.

Mr. Gates six feet tall in tasseled loafers and often addressed as Senior cultivated a confident presence that took him to the forefront of his community’s legal and political establishment.

To his surprise, his son, a co-founder of Microsoft and Harvard, dropped out who always seemed to resist parental authority, not only surpassed him in wealth and influence, but also placed him as co-chair of the family foundation that has become a leader in poverty reduction and global health initiatives.

I never imagined that the contentious young boy who grew up in my house, ate my food and used my name, would become my future employer, Mr. Gates once joked to an audience of Seattle nonprofits.

The oldest Gates, the son of a furniture store owner, was indelibly shaped by his Depression-era upbringing in working-class Bremerton, just across the Puget Sound from Seattle. His father often brought loose pieces of coal that had fallen from vans to heat their homes. After his military service in World War II, Mr. Gates studied law at GI Bill and he thrived as a corporate attorney.

He helped build Preston Gates & Ellis, now K&L Gates, into one of Seattles’ premier law firms. As chairman of the regional and national bars, he collected money for legal aid for the poor. He also immersed himself as a trustee, officer and volunteer in organizations such as United Way and Planned Parenthood.

After entering the inflammatory realm of reproductive politics, he wrote in his book Show Up for Life that a tremendous amount of good is accomplished when women are given power and choices.

In the mid-1990s, Bill Sr. recently widowed and about to retire, when his son and daughter-in-law asked him to oversee the requests for funding pouring into their new philanthropic family organizations. To winnow the deluge of mail, Mr. Gates initially relied on a system of cardboard boxes stored in his basement.

The Gateses’ various philanthropic efforts aimed at health, public access to computers, and preparing low-income minority students for college merged to form the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000.

His endowment grew to tens of billions of dollars, with businessman Warren Buffett vowing in 2006 to donate most of his $ 44 billion fortune to the foundation and several other philanthropies. Bill Sr. became deeply involved in giving out hundreds of millions of dollars in grants annually.

The Pacific Northwest’s needs garnered much of his attention, as the foundation funded regional cultural and educational institutions as well as organizations providing temporary housing for homeless families.

But his longstanding interest in reproductive health and child health also led to early support for the New York-based International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, the cornerstone of the Gateses. decades of investment in attempts to control the disease.

In time, he became a roving ambassador for the foundation, while CEO Patty Stonesifer was a former senior Microsoft official with whom he shared the title of co-chair focused on management and strategy. She gave Mr. Gates the credit for dramatically scaling the workforce and serving as a cultural leader as the organization grew.

He led deep with this idea that, as corny as it sounds, much is expected from whom much is expected, said Stonesifer, who left as CEO in 2008 and later headed the social service department Marthas Table in Washington.

He was not without ego, he was a tough lawyer, she added. But he was not exalted. He never felt he was entitled to it. He was the one who made sure that we did everything with our head but also with our heart. Through his non-profit work with United Way and Planned Parenthood, he was deeply rooted in what it takes to make a community work. He thought no effort was too small to learn about.

Bill Sr. also helped build the global profile of philanthropy by traveling sub-Saharan Africa in 2002 alongside former President Jimmy Carter and their wives. They met with government leaders, prostitutes and clinic patients to promote condom use and antiretroviral vaccines to prevent the spread of AIDS.

Mr. Gates told The Post that he rejected the view of some US donors who refused to support much needed charity and grant making in Africa due to endemic corruption in the continent.

I suppose it’s my personal naivete, but I’d always be on the side of God, we should do something instead of saying let’s wait for them to fix it, he noted.

William Henry Gates II he named his son Trey, because the third was born in Bremerton on November 30, 1925. As a teenager, he was an Eagle Scout, the highest rank in the Boy Scouts. After military service in the Pacific, he attended the University of Washington and received a bachelor’s degree in 1949 and a law degree in 1950.

The following year, he married Mary Maxwell, his college sweetheart, and they had three children. According to his family, he could be emotionally distant, but came to life during competitive games, from cards to table tennis, and during dinner conversations about world events.

My dad is a very thoughtful person, and things that need to be handled seriously, he treats seriously and you listen, Bill Jr. told the Seattle Times. He somehow conveyed, without being too explicit, his high expectations of us. His statements had a certain seriousness.

In a 2009 Interview with the Wall Street JournalMr. Gates recalled his sometimes contentious relationship with his son, whose independent streak made him prone to outbursts against parental controls. Bill Sr. once lost his lawyer cool and dipped his boy with a glass of water in an effort to calm him.

Thanks for the shower, his son replied.

Mr. Gates and his wife slowed down and sent their son to a private school known for his leniency and indulged in his interest in computers. Bill Sr. had once hoped his son would follow him in law, but didn’t fight too strongly when he left Harvard and started Microsoft in 1975 with a friend, Paul Allen. The company became an industrial powerhouse in the 1980s, turning the younger Gates into the face of the information technology revolution.

For many years, Mr. Gatess one of Microsoft’s preferred legal services providers and helped defend its long-running antitrust lawsuit against the company for bundling its popular Internet browser with the Windows 95 operating system. (Microsoft and the Justice Department reached a settlement in 2002.)

Mary Gates, a community volunteer who served on many board boards before her death in 1994, early on urged her son to start a charity. The elder Gates said he considered himself a caretaker for the foundation until his son gradually stepped back from the day-to-day work at Microsoft.

In 1996, Mr. Gates married Mimi Gardner, director of the Seattle Art Museum. In addition to his wife and son, there are two more daughters from his first marriage, Kristianne Blake and Elizabeth MacPhee; and eight grandchildren.

In addition to the foundation, Bill Sr. involved in community life by overseeing a multi-billion dollar fundraiser for the University of Washington. He was initiated in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2003 and received top honors from the American Bar Associations in 2009.

He co-wrote two books, one musing about life lessons and the other in defense of inheritance tax. As a self-made man whose son had amassed a net worth of more than $ 100 billion, he viewed such measures as a moral obligation, a means of correcting economic inequalities and maintaining a functioning democracy.

He pointed to research and technology, including the Internet, that would not have been possible without government investment. An innovative, robust economy is growing around such technology, he told Trusts and Estates in 2003. And this doesn’t just help the business people who start companies that increase research. These people buy groceries, rent real estate. The whole economy is really moving based on new business, new ideas, new products, new things. That’s how people get rich.

So someone comes to the end of their life and they have $ 50 million, he continued. You wouldn’t have had $ 50 million if you weren’t American. The estate tax is more like collecting bills than taxation.

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