Greenville Icon, Bill Bates, Dies At 89


By Catalina Trivino

The state of Alabama has lost one of its beloved businessmen -- a friend to many, who will forever be known for his turkeys -- Bill Bates has died at the age of 89.

You may know him from his Bates House of Turkey restaurant in Greenville, but he leaves behind much more than that for all who knew him, including Alabama's governors.

Bill Bates was an icon in the city of Greenville and to the state.

He passed away after losing his battle to a weak heart, but while he may be physically gone, family members say he will be remembered as a legend.

A marketing genious. A family man. Bill Bates was known as the "Turkey Man."

He's the founder of Bates House of Turkey, which opened in 1970. It was just a little sandwich shop off the Interstate 65 Greenville exit.

"So he built this little place here and said well I'll just build this little retail shop and just have some sandwiches you know?" Said his daughter, Becky Sloane. "And it just kept growing and the next thing you know..." -- his restaurant became the start of a tradition.

He delivered turkeys around the nation and especially in Alabama. For more than 60 years, Bates delivered "Clyde the Turkey" from his turkey farm to the Governors Mansion. The governor pardoned the turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.

Governor Bentley issued a statement about Bates saying, "Bill Bates was one of the finest men I knew. A veteran of World War II, Bill served his country with honesty and integrity. He was a member of the greatest generation who loved God, his family and his country."

He later says: "This year's ceremony will not be the same without Mr. Bates. Dianne and I extend our prayers to the entire Bates family during this difficult time."

"His smile... he had such a smile... I'll miss that the most -- that smile," Said Becky Sloane. She says Bates shared his smile with everyone he came across.

After years of heart problems, Bates has now left his family and the community with a legacy.

"It's hard. Nothing can prepare you for this," Said his grand-daughter, Michelle Sloane.

The family says one of his favorite things to do was meet people everyday. Strangers would walk in the restaurant and often times, he'd end up sitting right there with them.

Vistitation is Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Dunkin & Daniels Funeral home in Greenville.

The funeral will be Thursday at 11 a.m. at the Sandy Ridge Presbyterian Church in Logan, just outside Fort deposit.

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