William H. Gates II, a lawyer and philanthropist who was 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, his 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. The family also touched on his advocacy for progressive taxation, especially his 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. During World War II, 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.