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Stephen Frye Gates
  • Donations in celebration of Steve's life may be made to:
  • Charleston Library Society
    164 King Street
    Charleston, SC 29401
  • or to:
  • Drayton Hall Visitor Center Project
    3380 Ashley River Road
    Charleston, SC 29414

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Memories & Candles

“You grew from a shy, toe headed boy in a cub scout uniform, to a young man who entered the ivy covered towers of Yale and Harvard. You made your...Read More »
1 of 18 | Posted by: Kathryn Dunphy - Raleigh, NC

“Steve was one of the finest gentleman I have ever met. A terrible loss. ”
2 of 18 | Posted by: Charles Morgan - Atlanta, GA

“Steve was my first boss out of law school, and I could not have had a better boss or mentor. Steve was a good and honorable man who taught me a lot...Read More »
3 of 18 | Posted by: Stephen Stanczak - Rancho Mirage, CA

“We're so very sorry to hear of Stephen's passing. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of you. My grandfather, Charles Gates, was Stephen's father...Read More »
4 of 18 | Posted by: Cindy and Buzz Cooper - Belleair, FL

“Steve was a wonderful person and a great boss. It was a privilege to work for him and with him. I always enjoyed his wry sense of humor, his sharp...Read More »
5 of 18 | Posted by: Tony Nocchiero - Evanston, IL

“John and I were sorry to hear about Steve. His impact on the community will be felt for generations to come. We send you our thoughts and prayers. ...Read More »
6 of 18 | Posted by: Dianne Culhane - Kiawah Island, SC

“I pray for comfort to his family and friends. ”
7 of 18 | Posted by: Zelda Shelvin - Katy, TX

“This man was a lawyer that all who knew him always enjoyed and respected. Nobody ever thought I'll of him. He is the personification of a truly good...Read More »
8 of 18 | Posted by: Bob O'Connel - Rockford, IL

“Praying for peace to bring comfort, courage to face the days ahead and loving memories to forever hold in your hearts. My sincerest condolences to...Read More »
9 of 18 | Posted by: Pamela Jenkins - Sugarland, TX

“I feel blessed to have known him. My heartfelt condolences to the family. ”
10 of 18 | Posted by: Kristie Dewey - Houston, TX

“Please accept our most heartfelt sympathies for your loss. Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your family during this difficult time. ”
11 of 18 | Posted by: Maria Valmores - Houston, TX

“We send heartfelt sympathy to Laura and Stephen's extended family. The shock of hearing of his passing makes it difficult to find words. Stephen...Read More »
12 of 18 | Posted by: Beverly Stoney - Friend

“Uncle Steve-You inspired me with your passion for family history. You were cool, calm, and always had an easy smile. Thank you for the years of...Read More »
13 of 18 | Posted by: Chris Gates - Darmouth, MA

“Steve was a true power and force in Charleston, working so hard to maintain the historic integrity of our city. It is an honor to be able call him a...Read More »
14 of 18 | Posted by: Carrie Agnew - Charleston, SC

“Steve's passing is a huge loss to us as next door neighbor and friends, to the Lowcountry Land Trust and Drayton Hall whose causes he championed , to...Read More »
15 of 18 | Posted by: Rutledge Young - Charleston, SC

“Stephen, you were from the pages of history in your love of country andenter into that league of our forefathers of this republic "for which (the...Read More »
16 of 18 | Posted by: Margaret Gates - Sister

“Remembering my brother's accomplishments, only some of which are mentioned, flooded my emotions with pride and my eyes with tears. I loved him so...Read More »
17 of 18 | Posted by: Bryan Gates - San Marcos, CA

“My brother was always an inspiration for me, the word that dignifies himfor me and the world who knew him, I'm sure, is "APLOMP". He appearedalways...Read More »
18 of 18 | Posted by: Margaret Gates - Dunedin, FL


Stephen Frye Gates died peacefully at home on Wadmalaw Island on July 7, 2017. He was devoted to his wife, Laura Daignault Gates, whom he married on June 10, 1972.

Born on May 20, 1946 in Clearwater, Florida to Orris A. Gates Jr. and Olga Betty Frye Gates, he spent his school days in Clearwater and Dunedin after early years on various military bases while his father completed his Marine Corps career.

Steve graduated from Yale College in 1968. He went on to earn degrees from the Harvard Law School and the Harvard Business School in 1972. Awarded a Knox Fellowship from Harvard University in 1972, he and Laura spent the next academic year in London. Steve read at the School for Advanced Legal Studies and attended classes at the London School of Economics. The focus of his research was the consideration of how laws and regulation might be structured for truly global companies - those domiciled in one country, stock primarily owned and traded in another, with operations all over the world. He had a career as a lawyer, first in private practice and eventually as General Counsel at Amoco Corporation, FMC Corporation, and ConocoPhillips. His work at these companies and particularly at BP following the merger of Amoco, was reminiscent of his theoretical work so many years before as a Knox Fellow. Steve's most recent professional activities included work as Senior Counsel with Mayer Brown LLP and as a director of Methode Electronics, Inc. Steve was invariably deemed the "best boss I ever had" by the people he led. He was a gentleman, fair, and supportive… possessed of an extraordinary generosity of spirit and a keen intellect.

Steve was boundlessly curious. He had a great interest in history, which led him to collect maps and globes and to an ongoing love of libraries. He was a Director of the Newberry Library and a Friend of the Field Museum Library in Chicago. When he moved to Charleston he supported the Friends of the Library at the College of Charleston. Beginning in 2009, he led the renaissance at the Charleston Library Society, where he was President from 2010 to 2016. He most recently chaired the boards of Drayton Hall and the Lowcountry Open Land Trust. At Drayton Hall he negotiated the institution of joint-stewardship with the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and led the conception and realization of the new visitor center to be dedicated next spring. He was a Director of the National Archives in Washington, D.C. and a Commander of the Venerable Order of St John of Jerusalem.

His curiosity extended to his own family, and led to an exploration of his family history that lasted over 30 years, culminating in a book entitled Southern Planters completed in December 2016. This research provided the documentation required to support his membership in The Huguenot Society of South Carolina, The Sons of the American Revolution, and the General Society of the War of 1812. It also led to an award of Arms from the College of Arms in the United Kingdom. The motto Steve chose, Otium cum Dignitate (Leisure with Dignity), made many smile because it suited him so perfectly.

Steve spoke of his experience at Yale as defining. Yale provided him with a full scholarship and thereby a chance to achieve his potential. His friends participated in that education as they so often do at great residential institutions. And those same friends, first encountered in the fall of 1964, remained at the center of his life - like a guiding star - for the next 53 years. Always grateful for the generosity of Yale alumni who preceded him, Steve was a generous supporter of his alma mater. He honored the sacrificies of his parents by funding the renovation of the Silliman College Library in their names.

Steve is survived by his wife Laura D. Gates of Charleston, SC; his niece Eileen M. Gates (Rodney Harner) of Raleigh NC; his brother Bryan E. (Jean) Gates of San Marcos, California; his sister Margaret A. Gates of Dunedin, FL; a nephew Bryan E. (Kathy) Gates, Jr. of Winston-Salem, NC; a niece Jackie Gates of Raleigh, NC; and a nephew Christopher (Jennifer) Gates and their children Seth and Ella, of Dartmouth, MA; and a sister-in-law Linda D. (James) Howell of New Bern, NC. Finally, he leaves many friends and colleagues who will miss his counsel, goodwill, sense of humor and creativity.

Donations in celebration of Steve's life may be made to the Charleston Library Society building program and to the Drayton Hall Visitor Center project.

A memorial service will be planned for the fall.