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Archives of Maryland

(Biographical Series)

Wiley H. Bates (1859-1935)
MSA SC 3520-1942

Biography:

Born in Wageburrough, North Carolina, August 1, 1859.  Resided in
West Virginia.  Moved to Annapolis, Maryland, c. 1871.  Married first
wife Maggie (c. 1852-1892) on November 17, 1884.  Married second wife
Annie or “Addie” E. King (c. 1866-1921), date unknown.  One
adopted daughter or niece, Mattie Holt.  Resided at 47 Cathedral Street,
Annapolis.  Died April 1, 1935 in Annapolis.  Buried in Brewer Hill
Cemetery, Annapolis.

Wiley H. Bates was born into slavery in North Carolina.  After the
Civil War he worked as a water boy and freight boy on the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad
between the ages of about nine and twelve.  After the death of his father
at age eleven, Bates found employment on a boat that traveled on the Chesapeake
and Ohio Canal between Georgetown, Washington, D.C., and Cumberland, Maryland
and worked there until he was about 13.  He then moved to Annapolis,
Maryland with his mother about 1871, where he worked culling oysters. 
When Bates was eighteen years old he joined Asbury United Methodist Church, the
oldest black congregation in Annapolis, and organized its Lyceum Debating
Society.  He waited tables and worked at the oyster and crabbing business
until about 1879.  From 1880 to 1882 he worked at splitting and peddling
wood, building up a clientele that later patronized the grocery store he opened
at 54 Cathedral Street about 1883.  That same year he became secretary of
the People’s Brewer Hill Cemetery Corporation of Anne Arundel Maryland, started
in 1883 when Nicholas Brewer sold a plot of land to eleven black citizens who
formed their own corporation.  In November 1884, Bates married Marylander
Maggie King, and the couple resided at 47 Cathedral Street near the grocery
store.  As his grocery business grew, he became known for his fair
business practices and honest dealings with his customers, who called him the
“Negro Gentleman.”1  He was an active member of the
A.M.E. church and was a thirty-third degree Mason.

Bates’ popularity and leadership skills earned him a seat on the Annapolis
city council in July 1897, when he was elected Annapolis’ third black alderman
representing the third (later fourth) ward.  During his two years on the
council, he was a member of the standing committees on public buildings and
electric lights (the other standing committees being finance, streets, Market
House, fire department, and by-laws).2   Bates worked with
the mayor, the city counselor, and five other council members to conduct such
city business as electing city police officers, overseeing the grading and
paving of city streets, the installation of electric lights and telephone poles
throughout the city, they laying of additional track for the Annapolis and
Baltimore Short Line R.R. Co., and the granting or denying of city liquor
licenses.  Far from being a passive member of the council, Bates took a
leading roll as an advocate for city blacks from his earliest days on the
council.  In early October, 1897, he spearheaded an effort to petition the
legislature for funds to build of the city’s first public school for
“colored” children.3  When in May 1898 the city
council ordered an additional appropriation to help pay the salaries of
teachers at the all-white Annapolis High School in order for the school year to
extend into June, Bates made sure that the salaries of black teachers were
increased for the same purpose.4   In October 1898, Bates
proposed a council resolution condemning the lynching of  Wright Smith, a
black man accused of assaulting two white women, who was dragged from the
Annapolis City jail in the middle of the night and then shot in the back while trying
to flee a mob of angry white men.  Bates called the lynching a disgrace to
the city and cited his belief that Smith would shortly have been brought to
justice by due process of  law.  Although Governor Lloyd
Lowndes  publicly condemned the lynching as “an outrage,”5
Bates’ resolution was defeated in the city council with only one other member
voting in favor of it.6

Council members made decisions that had city-wide as well as state-wide
implications.  While Bates served on the council, members passed an ordnance
making it illegal to play baseball or football on any streets, lanes, alleys or
vacant lots within the corporate limits of the City of Annapolis without prior
written permission from the mayor; they granted the Waterwitch Hook and Ladder
Company use of assembly rooms to hold a ball; and granted a “petition from
the Rescue Fire Co., No. 7 asking that the City Fire Marshall be authorized to
have the hose reel painted and put in condition in time to participate in the
State Fireman’s Convention, to be held on June 9 & 10, 1899.”7 
In February 1898, council members petitioned the legislature to pass a law
authorizing a $30,000 bond issue to pay off the “floating debt” of
the city.8  On December 14, 1897, U.S. Senator from Maryland A.
P. Gorman
introduced a bill proposing that a U.S. Naval dry dock be built
at Round Bay.  On January 10, 1898, the Annapolis city council resolved to
work with Senator Gorman “so as to keep said Congressional Delegation
fully and correctly informed in reference to the due importance of said Naval
Works” to support Senate Bill 2778.The council resolved
at the same time to extend thanks to the Baltimore Sun for “calling
attention to the present needs of the United States Naval Academy, and in
urging upon Congress the necessity of appropriating a sum of money for the
permanent improvement of said installation” through several recent
articles.10   On April 4, 1898, council members adopted
and sent a telegram to Senators Gorman and George L. Wellington asking for an
immediate hearing before the Senate Committee on Naval Affairs “in behalf
of a Dry Dock at Round Bay, Severn River as recited in an amendment by Senator
Gorman to the Naval Appropriation Bill.”   The mayor was also
authorized to appoint a “committee of citizens to visit Washington, in
connection with the Board, and intercede in behalf of the establishment of the
said Dry Dock.”11  Their efforts paid off as the bill was
passed.

Bates maintained his grocery store until 1912, becoming one of the
wealthiest black residents of Annapolis.  After his retirement from the
grocery business, he invested in real estate and bought houses at 125 South
Street and 90 Clay Street in Annapolis.  During the 1920s and 1930s, Bates
built on his reputation as a champion of improved education for blacks. 
He was a 1925 founding member of the Parent Teacher Association of the first
black high school in Anne Arundel County, Stanton High School, where he also
served as a trustee for eight years.  For four years he was a trustee of
Wilberforce University, a university near Dayton, Ohio that had been
established in 1856 by and for African-Americans.  When the student body
of Stanton High School began to outgrow the Stanton building in the late 1920s,
Bates donated $500 toward the purchase of land to build a new black high school
in Annapolis.  The new school opened in 1933, named the Wiley Bates High
School in his honor.  At the age of 69 he published an autobiographical
book of “sayings” that told of his deep Christian faith, his belief
in the value of perseverance, hard work, thrift, brotherly love and a good
measure of “pluck.”  Aware that the basic needs of food and
shelter for many of the older blacks in Annapolis were not being met on a
regular basis, Bates directed in his will that his house on Clay street be
incorporated as “The Bates Old Peoples Home” to be used as a refuge
for elderly blacks “regardless of sect.”12  He died
in 1935 at the age of 76, a testimony to the fruitfulness of diligence and
optimism.
_____________________________________

1.  Wiley H. Bates, Researches, Sayings and Life of Wiley H. Bates (Annapolis: 
1928), p. 25.

2.  Maryland State Archives ANNAPOLIS MAYOR AND ALDERMEN (Proceedings)
1892-1898, MSA M49-14, 1/22/1/66, pp. 348-350.

3.  Maryland State Archives
ANNAPOLIS MAYOR AND ALDERMEN (Proceedings) 1892-1898, MSA M49-14, 1/22/1/66, p.
374.
  The Stanton School was built in 1900.  Before 1900, the
Gallilean Fisherman School, founded by Methodists, and St. Mary’s Catholic
Church served as private schools for black children.  see Philip L. Brown,
The Other Annapolis 1900-1950 (Annapolis:  The Annapolis
Publishing Company, 1994), p. 53.

4.  Maryland State Archives ANNAPOLIS
MAYOR AND ALDERMEN (Proceedings) 1892-1898, MSA M49-14, 1/22/1/66, pp. 419-420.

5.  The Baltimore Weekly Sun, 8
October 1898.

6.  Maryland State Archives ANNAPOLIS
MAYOR AND ALDERMEN (Proceedings) 1898-1901, MSA M49-15, 1/22/1/67, p. 27.

7.   Maryland State Archives ANNAPOLIS MAYOR AND ALDERMEN
(Proceedings) 1892-1898, MSA M49-14, 1/22/1/66, p. 417;
Maryland State Archives ANNAPOLIS MAYOR AND ALDERMEN (Proceedings) 1898-1901,
MSA M49-15, 1/22/1/67, pp. 24, 30, 103.

8.  Maryland State Archives ANNAPOLIS MAYOR AND ALDERMEN (Proceedings)
1892-1898, MSA M49-14, 1/22/1/66, pp. 398-399.  See also 1898 Md. Laws ch.
370.

9.  Maryland State Archives ANNAPOLIS MAYOR AND ALDERMEN (Proceedings)
1892-1898, MSA M49-14, 1/22/1/66, pp. 392-393.

10.  Ibid., p. 393.  The bill was passed.  See Maryland State
Archives ANNAPOLIS MAYOR AND ALDERMEN (Proceedings) 1898-1901, MSA M49-15,
1/22/1/67, p. 80)

11.   Maryland State Archives ANNAPOLIS MAYOR AND ALDERMEN
(Proceedings) 1892-1898, MSA M49-14, 1/22/1/66, p. 403.

12.  Maryland State Archives ANNE
ARUNDEL COUNTY REGISTER OF WILLS (Wills) MSA T2559-11, WMN 1, 1/1/10/56.

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