Richmond youth organization to host gala honoring former Mayor Nat Bates

Nat Bates, first elected to Richmond's council in 1967, bids 'final farewell'
Nat Bates (Photo by Mike Kinney)

By Mike Kinney

What better way to honor a man who raised a lot of funds for local youth, than with a gala fundraiser benefitting local youth.

On Wednesday, June 28, the nonprofit West County Salesian Youth Club (formally the Salesian Boys & Girls Club) will host a gala banquet to honor former Richmond Mayor and Councilmember Nat Bates for his 45 years of community service to the organization.

Single and group tickets are available to the gala event, which will take place at 6 p.m. at the West County Salesian Youth Club (WCSYC) located at 2801 Moran Ave. in Richmond. All proceeds will support the nonprofit organization. Single tickets are $50 and group tickets (tables for 10) can be purchased in tiers and come with varying perks (Gold Tier: $5,000, Silver Tier: $2,500, and Bronze Tier: $1,000).

Steve Alameda, CEO and executive director of the WCSYC, said Mayor Bates raised tens of thousands of dollars over the past 45 years on behalf of the boys and girls who attend West County Salesian Boys & Girls Club, “directly or indirectly.”

“He has generated and fundraised for the Club over the past 45 years with numerous banquets, golf tournaments and the B.M.W. ( Black Men and Women political caucus) to name a few,” Alameda said.

The upcoming gala is the latest honor of Bates, who served as the nation’s oldest elected official when he was a Councilmember at age 91 last year. In August 2022, Bates, who played professional baseball in Canada, was joined his 1952 Indian Head Rockets baseball team in being inducted into the Canadian Saskatchewan Baseball Hall of Fame.

Bates was first elected to Richmond City Council in 1967. He retired from elected office in the same role in January this year.

Alameda first met Bates when he was a teacher and coach at Kennedy High in the early 1970s. He said Bates “supported every event we did at Kennedy.”

“He was a definite lifeline connection to the community at Kennedy High School when we did events and functions,” Alameda said. “And when I started here in 2013, he was still the lifelong connection to the community. He helped to keep the Club in the black and serving the people in Richmond. I see him spiritually with his arms stretched around the community of Richmond, making sure the people are looked out for.” 

Former Richmond Vice Mayor and City Councilmember John Ziesenhenne, who owns local business M. A. Hayes, described working with Bates on Council in 1981. “He was a smart and savvy elected official, who zeroed in on the topics at hand,” Ziesenhenne said. “Nat sat on the board of The League of National Cities and definitely helped Richmond with using his national relationships.”

Contra Costa County Supervisor John Gioia is slated to speak at the June 28 gala. He said Bates has served the local community with “distinction and honor.”

“He helped lead Richmond’s transition from a heavily industrial city to one with a broader economic base and he always fought to ensure that the African-American community benefitted from Richmond’s growth and transition,” Gioia said.

Lesa McIntosh, current Board member on the East Bay Municipal Water District and former Richmond Councilmember described Bates not just as a community champion, but “a terrific guy.”

For more information about the gala honoring Bates and to purchase single or group tickets and sponsorships, call (510) 215-4646 or email [email protected].