William H. Gates Sr. died on Monday at the age of 94

By Gabrielle Chung
September 15, 2020 07:53 PM
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Bill Gates (L) and his father William H. Gates Sr.
Brian Ach/Getty Images

Bill Gates' father — former attorney William H. Gates Sr. — has died. He was 94.

The Microsoft billionaire, 64, announced the death in a post published on his blog Tuesday, writing, "My dad passed away peacefully at home yesterday, surrounded by his family."

"We will miss him more than we can express right now We are feeling grief but also gratitude," he continued. "My dad’s passing was not unexpected—he was 94 years old and his health had been declining—so we have all had a long time to reflect on just how lucky we are to have had this amazing man in our lives for so many years. And we are not alone in these feelings. My dad’s wisdom, generosity, empathy, and humility had a huge influence on people around the world."

In the tribute, Gates reflected on his father's influence on his life, sharing that he and his sisters were "very lucky" to have parents who "gave us constant encouragement and were always patient with us."

William H. Gates Sr. (L) and Bill Gates
Brian Ach/Getty Images

"I knew their love and support were unconditional, even when we clashed in my teenage years. I am sure that’s one of the reasons why I felt comfortable taking some big risks when I was young, like leaving college to start Microsoft with Paul Allen," he wrote. "I knew they would be in my corner even if I failed."

"As I got older, I came to appreciate my dad’s quiet influence on almost everything I have done in life. In Microsoft’s early years, I turned to him at key moments to seek his legal counsel," Gates said.

"My dad also had a profound influence on my drive. When I was a kid, he wasn’t prescriptive or domineering, and yet he never let me coast along at things I was good at, and he always pushed me to try things I hated or didn’t think I could do (swimming and soccer, for example). And he modeled an amazing work ethic. He was one of the hardest-working and most respected lawyers in Seattle, as well as a major civic leader in our region."

Gates also honored his father's philanthropic side, writing that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — which Gates Sr. co-chaired — "would not be what it is today without my dad."

"More than anyone else, he shaped the values of the foundation," the technology mogul said. "He was collaborative, judicious, and serious about learning. He was dignified but hated anything that seemed pretentious. (Dad’s given name was William H. Gates II, but he never used the 'II'—he thought it sounded stuffy.)"

"He was great at stepping back and seeing the big picture. He was quick to tear up when he saw people suffering in the world. And he would not let any of us forget the people behind the strategies we were discussing," Gates wrote. "People who came through the doors of the Gates Foundation felt honored to work with my dad. He saw the best in everyone and made everyone feel special."

Gates said they "grew closer during more than two decades of working together," leading Gates Sr. to have a "profoundly positive influence" on Gates' role as a husband and dad to his three own children.

"When I am at my best, I know it is because of what I learned from my dad about respecting women, honoring individuality, and guiding children’s choices with love and respect," he explained.

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Gates went on to share that one of his "most prized possessions" is a letter written by his father that was given to him on his 50th birthday.

"In it, he encouraged me to stay curious," Gates said. "He said some very touching things about how much he loved being a father to my sisters and me."

The Giving Pledge founder concluded, "The experience of being the son of Bill Gates was incredible. People used to ask my dad if he was the real Bill Gates. The truth is, he was everything I try to be. I will miss him every day."

In addition to his work as an attorney, Gates Sr. served on the board of a number of organizations, including United Way and Planned Parenthood.

He also served as the founding co-chair of Pacific Health Summit, an honorary chair for the World Justice Project and founded the Technology Alliance, an organization dedicated to expanding technology-based employment in Washington.