Bates, George Joseph

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George J. Bates (1891-1949) was born in Salem and attended Salem Public Schools. He was a member of the State House of Representatives from 1918-24 and served as mayor of Salem from 1924-37. He served in Congress from 1937 until he was killed in an airplane crash at the Washington D.C. National Airport on Nov. 1, 1949. His internment is in St. Mary's Cemetery. Known to be a devout catholic, he came up from humble beginnings to work part time in the tanneries by age 7, then apprenticed as an iron moulder. He also worked for United Shoe and the Leonard Iron Works on Canal Street. He took night courses in accounting at Bentley School in Boston, and then went on to bid for public office. He was elected to the state legislature first.

In his years as mayor, he was known to effect peaceful settlement of a strike at the Naumkeag Mills(aka Pequot Mills) and he fought to stem foreign imports that jeopardized wavering industries. He went unpaid for a year while holding down mayoral duties. In 1937, he was both U.S. Representative and mayor. He refused the mayor's pay so long as congress was in session.

The plane crash that killed Bates and all 55 passengers occurred between the Eastern Airlines passenger plane and a Bolivian fighter plane as the passenger plane came in for a landing. Lack of radio power may have been a factor in the crash. The plane was sheared in half by the impact.

William Henry Bates, his son, was elected as a Republican to the 81st Congress to fill the vacancy caused by the death of his father. His was reelected to the 82nd and the nine succeeding Congresses and served until his death in 1969. His internment is in St. Mary's Cemetery.

Bates Elementary School in Salem is named after George J. Bates and his son.

See Also

  • "Cong. Bates dies in plane crash" Salem Evening News, Nov. 2, 1949, p. 1-