Jim Bates, an award-winning photographer who got his start at The Daily World and went on to a distinguished career at The Seattle Times, died of cancer Sunday at the age of 63.
“He loved his job, his photo subjects and his fellow journalists,” said Times photo editor Angela Gottschalk. “He was a big guy with a tender touch in everything he did.”
Mr. Bates, a Bothell resident diagnosed in 1996 with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, was a lifelong Seattle-area resident and a Times photographer for more than 20 years.
“I’m proud to say that I gave Jim Bates his first fulltime job as a photojournalist,” said John Hughes, former Daily World editor and publisher. “He was wonderfully talented and had a special touch with the people he photographed—everyone from longshoremen to nuns. When he teamed with Kathy Quigg, The Daily World boasted two of the finest photojournalists anywhere. One of my fondest memories is of Jim returning from a high school football game on an October night when it rained cats and dogs. He strode into the newsroom, shook himself like a big old hound dog shedding water, smiled his infectious smile and declared: ‘I’ve got some great pictures!’ ”
Bates graduated from Evergreen High School in White Center in 1968, and attended Highline Community College and Brigham Young University before serving a two-year mission in Australia with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
He returned to BYU, graduating in 1976 with a degree in communications and photojournalism.
His first photo job was at The Daily World in Aberdeen, and he worked at several other newspapers before being hired by The Times, first on a temporary basis in 1988 and then permanently in 1991.
Retired Daily World photographer Kathy Quigg says she owes a lot to Bates.
“Jim really, really gave me the opportunity to be a photographer,” Quigg said. “He let me hang out with him in the dark room all the time. He was just a lot of fun and he was very good at what he did. It’s so strange because I was just thinking of him the other day. He was just a good, good guy.”
Daily World Sports Editor Rick Anderson says he’ll miss Bates.
”The Daily World has had a series of outstanding photographers in the 40 years I’ve been working for the paper, and Jim ranks at or near the top of that list,” Anderson said. “Jim was a big man and he moved pretty slowly but he must have had great photographic instincts because he always seemed to be in perfect position to get great reaction shots, which is a lot harder to capture than the average person might think. And nothing ever seemed to rattle him when he was out on assignment.”
Family, faith, friends and his career were the cornerstones of his life, and he gave himself generously to each, said his wife of 38 years, Annette.
His struggles with his disease, the ups and downs of remission and relapse, heightened his appreciation of life and those around him, his wife said.
Each time his illness abated, he returned to work as soon as possible. His resilience — along with his professionalism and his hearty, contagious laugh — earned him the respect and affection of co-workers.
“He took on the challenges related to his illness with an incredible spirit of determination, a great sense of humor and few, if any, complaints,” Gottschalk said.
He had a particular skill and interest in an area some news photographers might find less than glamorous: high-school sports.
“I’m sure he photographed more prep events than any other staffer,” said Don Shelton, Times sports editor. “Whether it was a regular-season football game, a district wrestling tournament or a state championship game in basketball, Jim was always there and always came back with the right pictures.”
Times photographer Dean Rutz enjoyed teaming up with Mr. Bates on sports events, knowing Mr. Bates would be willing to explore any angle for a telling photo.
Part of the fun, Rutz said, was that even though Mr. Bates was a fan of local teams, his upbringing and manner prevented him from using curse words when those teams did poorly.
“It left him little creative means to express his frustrations,” Rutz said. “It would always be ‘those ding dongs’; or ‘those fetching Huskies.’ ”
In addition to sports, Mr. Bates photographed a wide range of news and feature assignments.
He received numerous awards for his work from the National Press Photographers Association, The Associated Press and the Society of Professional Journalists.
He helped the Times win a spot-news photography award in 2006 with a photo of young people consoling one another after a gunman killed six people at a Capitol Hill house.
Mr. Bates was a participating photographer in “One Day In Washington” (1985), and was picture editor for two books featuring Seattle photographers.
Away from work, his interests included gardening, fishing, golf, camping and hiking, and a variety of home-improvement projects that included building a deck and a shed, remodeling the kitchen and refinishing the basement.
“He was mostly self-taught,” his wife said. “If he didn’t know how to do something, he’d find someone to ask or look it up in a book.”
In addition to his wife, Annette, Mr. Bates is survived by three sons, Matthew, of Garden Ridge, Texas; Samuel, of Springville, Utah; and Nathan, of Bothell; by a daughter, Holley Lennebacker, of Woodinville; and by eight grandchildren.
His funeral will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 1, at the LDS Bothell Stake Center, 16500 124th Ave N.E., Woodinville.
Memorials may be made to the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center or the LDS Humanitarian Aid Fund.