L. C. Bates and Daisy Bates pose for a photo. Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Meeting Ms. Daisy

After six years of marriage, the Bates couple decided to part ways in 1930. They had one child; Loretta Ann Bates Carter.

By the time of the couple’s split, Bates had already met the young lady who would later become known as his better half, Daisy Lee Gatson of Huttig, Arkansas. Daisy was only 15 years old when she first laid eyes on 27-year-old Bates, who she described as a tall, slender, soft-spoken insurance agent.

Daisy’s father, Orlee, had purchased a family policy from Bates, and during the three years following his first visit, Bates became a frequent visitor to the Gatsons’ home. Bates and Orlee had hit it off quickly, so when he came to town, Bates made sure to bring gifts for the entire family, such as a newspaper or magazine for Orlee, a box of candy for his wife, and a string of pearls or a bracelet for Daisy.

In addition to gifts, Bates also would invite the family out to the movies. On one occasion, he held Daisy’s hand in the dark theater and she recounts being thrilled.

“That evening I paid little attention to the movie for I decided then and there, that I would one day marry him,” Daisy said.

When Daisy was 17 and old enough to go out, Bates took her to the movies in El Dorado, Arkansas. He later proposed to Daisy, which occurred shortly after her father’s death, and she gladly accepted.┬áThe couple got married in Fordyce, Arkansas, in 1940 by a justice of the peace and afterward settled in Little Rock.

Although Bates was embarking upon a new journey with Daisy, he still longed to start his newspaper, and he knew he needed her support. While talking it over with Daisy, she agreed to support Bates if his paper “stood for something” and didn’t possess the “don’t rock the boat attitude” that some other black newspapers took. From the beginning, the State Press was that and more.┬áThe paper rattled the entire Little Rock community and stood at the center of one of the greatest changes in the history of the state.

 

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