The History of Wiley H. Bates
Wiley H. Bates, born in North Carolina on August 1, 1859, came to Annapolis in 1872. After working on various jobs in Annapolis in 1879, he opened a small grocery store on the corner of South and Cathedral Streets in Annapolis. His home was located on the corner diagonally across the street, where he lived with his wife, Annie, and adopted daughter, Mattie Holt. Mr. Bates’ business prospered in the neighborhood. Serving white and colored alike, he found himself with a prosperous and growing business requiring a horse and wagon for deliveries and three clerks. In 1912, after 33 years, Mr. Bates sold the business. Mr. Bates was a leader not only in the community but in civic affairs. On July 12, 1897, he was elected Alderman from what was then the third ward and served a two-year term.
Mr. Bates was actively interested in education, although he, himself, had spent only five days of his childhood in formal schooling. During his first year as Alderman, he presented a petition to the council signed by the Annapolis colored citizens requesting a school for their children. Out of the petition probably came the Stanton Elementary School on Washington Street, where he served as a trustee for eight years.
In the late 1920s, when the Stanton PTA was attempting to raise funds for the purchase of a piece of land for a new high school building, Mr. Bates donated $500.00 toward this cause. The land was purchased, and the new high school for colored children was built and opened to students in January 1933. It was dedicated as the Wiley H. Bates High School.
In recognition of Mr. Bates’ many contributions to the Annapolis Community, the Annapolis City Council unanimously passed a resolution to perpetuate the memory of this outstanding Annapolis Citizen. It cited Mr. Bates as a “churchman, businessman, civic leader and philanthropist who served the city with distinction and as a citizen who made many outstanding contributions to the community, the foremost of which was his contribution to the founding of the Bates High School.
Mr. Bates was a member of the Board of Trustees of Wilberforce University in Ohio for four years, a dedicated member of Mount Moriah A.M.E. Church in Annapolis, and a 33rd Degree Mason. He donated to many charities, among which was the Annapolis Emergency Hospital.
Wiley H. Bates, merchant, politician, philanthropist, and Christian gentleman, departed this life in 1935. His remains now rest in Brewer Hill Cemetery here in Annapolis, and his grave is marked with an obelisk, the only one in the cemetery.
I first became acquainted with Mr. Bates while I was a youngster in the Mount Moriah Sunday School. He and my father, William H. Brown, were good friends. They were not only associated as fellow members of the church, but they had a common interest in the grocery business as my father also operated a grocery store here in the city during this period.
In 1928, Mr. Bates wrote and published a booklet entitled, “Researches, Sayings, and Life of Wiley H. Bates,’ which he made available to the Annapolis Community. My father purchased a copy of the booklet, and I had the opportunity to read it. Over the years, our copy in some way disappeared. Recently, I came across a copy of the book and after reading it, decided that Mr. Bates’ Sayings, his gems of wisdom and his philosophy of life expressed so eloquently in his writings should be made available to the present-day public that they might profit from his views of everyday living and be inspired by his life and accomplishments.
It was for these reasons that I decided to reproduce the booklet.
Author – Phillip L. Brown (1999)