| ||William Henry Gates II was born in Bremerton, Washington, on November 30, 1925 to William Henry Gates I or Sr., and wife (married c. 1913) Lillian Elizabeth Rice. He was the third in his family to have the same name, his grandfather being the first William Henry Gates. His paternal grandmother was German and his maternal grandmother was English. William Henry Gates II was an active member of a Boy Scout troop for several years, and earned the Eagle Scout Award in 1944. After high school he enlisted in the United States Army, changing his name to William Gates, Jr. to avoid the appearance of elitism. He fought in World War II and was honorably discharged in November 1946.|
He attended the University of Washington (UW) under the G.I. Bill, where he earned a B.A. in 1949 and a law degree in 1950. While at Washington he joined the Chi Psi Fraternity. He practiced law until 1998, primarily with the law firm which he co-founded as Shidler & King in 1964, later known as Preston Gates & Ellis LLP. William Henry Gates II also served on the board of Planned Parenthood.
In 1998, William Henry Gates II retired from PGE. He currently serves on the Board of Regents for the University of Washington, and is a co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which his son Bill and his son's wife Melinda founded. He has served as a director for Costco Wholesale, a bulk retail corporation, since 2003. He is also a founding co-chair of the Pacific Health Summit.
He married Mary Maxwell Gates, whom he met at UW, and who died in 1994. They had three children. In 1996 William Henry Gates II married Mary Gardner Gates, who was director of the Seattle Art Museum.