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November 26, 2012 at 7:49 PM

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Remembering Seattle Times photographer Jim Bates


Seattle Times photographer Jim Bates shot a photo of himself at the 2001 Rose Bowl.

You can tell a lot about Jim Bates, a Seattle Times photographer who died of cancer Sunday at 63, just by looking at a photo he took of himself outside the Rose Bowl in Pasadena in 2001.

In the shot, which Mr. Bates posted on his Facebook page, he’s smiling. He’s working. He’s outdoors. He’s wearing a Seattle Times ball cap. And he’s out on a big story — the Huskies at the Rose Bowl.


The new year is greeted by a fireworks display on the Space Needle in Seattle on Jan. 1, 2011.

“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 an award-winning Seattle Times photographer for more than 20 years.

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.


Galen Kintner, 5, on his pedal car, races his grandpa, John Kropf, on his electric scooter along the Burke-Gilman Trail near Gas Works Park, April 4, 2002. Galen was much faster.

James Lewis Bates was born in Renton on Jan. 22, 1949.

He 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.


Lacrosse-Washtucna Coach Jeff Nelson enjoys the ride of his life after his team's B-8 state championship victory over Touchet, Dec. 7, 2002.

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.


After a gunman shot six young people at a Capitol Hill house in March 2006, friends gathered at Miller Community Center to hear police and city officials discuss the progress of the case.

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.”

This player was created in September 2012 to update the design of the embed player with chromeless buttons. It is used in all embedded video on The Seattle Times as well as outside sites.

In this 2010 video, Jim Bates talks about how he made an image of Seattle police Sgt. Brian Kraus moving in with pepper spray and stopping a fight at First Avenue and Bell Street.

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.

Seattle Times staff writer Jack Broom: 206-464-2222 or

For more photos by Jim Bates, visit this gallery.

Read a tribute to Bates from Seattle Times sports editor Don Shelton.

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