Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Dr. Ernest A. Bates, Jr. dies in California

Graduate of PHS, Class of 1954
Dr. Ernest A. Bates, Jr. dies in California

 Acclaimed neurosurgeon, entrepreneur, philanthropist, and former Peekskill resident Dr. Ernest A. Bates, Jr. passed away peacefully at his home in Napa, California on March 19. He was 88. There will be future celebration of his life at a date to be determined. 

Ernest Alfonso Bates was born December 7, 1936 in Valhalla, NY to Ernest A. Bates, Sr. and Sally Dabbs Bates. He was raised and educated in Peekskill and graduated from Peekskill High School in 1954. He was baptized and raised in Mt. Olivet Baptist Church in Peekskill.

While a student at Peekskill High School he was a member of the Peekskill High School football team. Dr. Bates entered Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland where he pursued his bachelor’s degree in biology on a full academic scholarship.  During his tenure at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore was a segregated city.  Most Black students lived off campus. But Dr. Bates lived on campus and recounted that he was initially disappointed to discover that he hadn’t been assigned a roommate, an effort by the administration to avoid any discrimination he or his roommates might have encountered from other students on the floor.  Such concerns were unfounded:  Dr. Bates soon heard from 20 students who eagerly volunteered to be his roommate. 

Rather than accept, he turned his room into a haven for Black students from Baltimore, giving them a place to meet, leave their books, lunches, and coats between classes, or even sleep over the night before a big exam, a practice he kept up for all four years at Hopkins, even when he later had roommates. 

In addition to his academic studies, he was a prominent member of the football and track teams.  Because of his exceptional skill on the football team, the then Baltimore Colts (NFL) were hoping to draft him, but his mom knew being a doctor was more productive than being a professional football player.  At the time of segregation and Jim Crow laws he was refused restaurant service when he travelled with his football team to football games.  His teammates walked out in solidarity with their friend.

He was a trailblazer and entrepreneur from the beginning.  He and his lifelong friend John (Jack) Ruffle managed the hotdog concession in between their busy schedules. 

Upon his graduation from Johns Hopkins University, he received a full scholarship from the University of Rochester School of Medicine & Dentistry, and in 1963 completed an internship at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx Municipal Hospital Center. 


He then joined the United States Air Force and served in Japan for three years.  Following his military service where he was honorably discharged, Dr. Bates completed his neurosurgery residency in 1971 at the University of California, San Francisco, becoming one of three Black board-certified neurosurgeons in the United States.  He continued his neurosurgical medical practice in San Francisco until 2020, when he moved to Napa California full time.

In 1977, Dr. Bates founded American Share Hospital Services (ASHS) and became one of the first African Americans to take a company public.  He remained the ASHS’s CEO until he retired in 2020 and served as an executive director until his death. ASHS is a healthcare company that provides cutting-edge surgical equipment and innovative medical technology to North and South America, and parts of Eastern Europe

He served on the University of California San Francisco School of Nursing Board of Overseers; as well as, the Board of Governors for the California Community Colleges.  As a patron of the arts, he also served many years as a San Francisco Ballet Board Trustee.  He established the Ernest Bates Foundation in 2004 to support nonprofit health care organizations serving African Americans and Latino communities, a cause close to his heart.  The foundation created the Sally Bates Endowed Chair in Health Disparities at the UCSF School of Nursing in honor of his mother, who at age 70 returned to school to become a licensed vocational nurse after having worked for years as a matron.

In the mid-1980’s Dr. Bates was a guest speaker at the Mt. Olivet Baptist Church where he donated offering funds meant for him to the Youth Choir and then made a generous contribution to the church he grew up in and where his mother was a very active church member.

In 1996 he was inducted into the Peekskill High School Hall of Honor.

In 1998, he founded Bates Creek Vineyards in Napa Valley and later rebranded the label under Black Coyote Chateau with his original partners and friends Jack Ruffle and Stan Trotman, making Dr. Bates one of the first Black vintners in the country.  That same year, he received the prestigious Kjakan Award for his contribution to the spirit of entrepreneurial capitalism.  Dr. Bates was a founding member of the African American Vintners Association.

Dr. Bates earned numerous distinctions and honors and served on the boards for many prestigious public and private organizations including Shared Imaging and Apollo Medical.  In 2003 he was honored with the Heritage Award, granting him trustee emeritus status at Johns Hopkins University.  In 2005, he was elected to the California Commission for Jobs and Economic Growth.  In 2011 his hometown Peekskill City Council recognized him as one of five African American Community members for their accomplishments during Black History Month.  In 2012, Dr. Bates was awarded with the Deans Medal by the University of Rochester.  He was recognized in 2021 at the JHU’s Commencement ceremony with an honorary degree, the university’s highest honor.  Chosen as one of the Universities four pioneering historic figures, one of the two Charles Commons resident halls opened in 2006 was named Bates Hall in honor.  As an active leader, he spent two decades as a trustee for both the University of Rochester and Johns Hopkins University.  He is also a cabinet member, as well as the Capital Campaign Chairman and a founding board member of the Museum of African Diaspora in San Francisco.

He also served as a board member of the Center for FasterCures-Milken Institute, as a member of the Brookings Institution, as a San Francisco Bay Regional Cabinet member, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Salzburg Global Seminar.  In 1997, the State Senate appointed him to the California High-Speed Rail Authority, and in 2005, he was appointed to the California Commission for Jobs and Economic Growth.  Additionally, he served on the board of Copia, the American Center for Wine, Food, and the Arts.

Dr. Bates was also a founding member of the Sigma Pi Phi Fraternity-Beta Upsilon Boule chartered in San Francisco in July 1983.  Before that he was inducted into the Alpha Gamma chapter of the Boule in Oakland.

He had an enormous amount of love for his family and being his cousin, I felt loved and very proud of him. I also enjoyed many conversations with him whenever I visited him in California. His mother and my grandmother were sisters, so my mother, Vera Smith, was extremely close to him.  Al, as he is known, to our family was a beloved brother to my mother. During their youth my mother lived with my aunt Sally and uncle Ernest and the bond was made.

Dr. Bates is survived by his best friend and wife, Kathryn Ann McMorrow Bates of Napa, sons Ernest R. Bates, of Annapolis, Ca., and Paul S. Bates of Peekskill, NY. He is also survived by his grandchildren Ernest, Alexander, and Helena Bates. He is also survived by his loving cousins Vera Smith and Renee Smith Leisengang and relatives and friends.

Contributions in Dr. Bates honor may be made to Johns Hopkins and Rochester Universities, and or the University of California, San Francisco.