Crawford Gates (1921 - 2018)

Matthew Thompson

Excerpted from Doctoral Dissertation

Crawford Marion Gates was born an only child on 29 December 1921 in San Francisco, California. A few years after his birth Gates’ family moved to Palo Alto where they resided for most of his childhood. His father, Gilbert Marion Gates, and Arthur Crawford were champion debate partners between 1918 and 1919 at Dixie College in St. George, Utah. The esteem they had for each other led them to “[make] a pact between themselves that they would respectively name their first son after the other person’s last name,”1 hence Crawford Gates. Gilbert Gates was a businessman who left Utah to study law in California, though due to the demands of work—in order to support a family—never finished and instead became an accountant and office manager for a number of companies. His mother, Leila Adair, also worked in businesses most of Crawford’s childhood especially during the Great Depression. Crawford recounts of this time that, “one of the first symptoms is that the lights were turned off. We lived with candles. I remember that a lot of canning was being done, because the food supply was running short.”2

Aside from their employment and familial responsibilities his parents were both very active as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Neither one of Crawford’s parents were musicians, yet they were supportive of Crawford’s pursuits. Gates refers to his mother as being a special influence and encouragement in part due to her background. Gates says:

in her home her father, Jedediah Adair, brought a piano, out at Widtsoe, Utah, which to us now is in the middle of nowhere in Southern Utah. To have a piano in a farmhouse in Widtsoe, Utah in 1908 or 1910 or 1912 was an unusual thing. So she grew up with some music in her home, and she and her sisters all played by ear. They didn’t have piano teachers out there. So she could play the hymns by ear, and she was appreciative of good music. In San Francisco she wanted to go to the symphony concerts and she attended chamber music and other recitals, the theater, and the exhibits. She also became quite a reader and read many good books. So even though she didn’t have more than two years of college at Dixie Normal, she had a thirst for some intellectual and cultural life.3

  • 1Quoted in Crawford M. Gates, Oral History. Interviewed by Gordon Irving. Salt Lake City, Utah, 1985-90. Typescript, p. 3, The James Moyle Oral History Program, Archives, Historical Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah.
  • 2Quoted in Gates, Oral History, 8.
  • 3Quoted in Gates, Oral History, 11.


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