Archives > Historical Features > Penn Biographies


George Handy Bates (1845-1916)

University Affiliation:
  • Class of 1865
  • Member of Phi Kappa Sigma and University Chess Club
  • Vice-regent of Zelo
Biographical Summary:
  • Lawyer
  • Delaware Assistant Attorney General
  • Speaker of the Delaware House of Representatives
  • Delaware delegate to Democratic National Conventions
  • United States Commissioner to Samoa and Tongo
  • President of the American Bar Association


George Handy Bates was born in Dover, Delaware, on November 19, 1845, to Daniel Moore Bates and Margaret Handy.

Bates entered as a sophomore member of the Class of 1865 in 1862, and left at the close of his junior year. While at Penn, Bates was a member of the Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity and the University Chess Club. During his sophomore year he was president of his the Class of 1865 and vice-regent of the Zelosophic Society.

In 1867 and 1868 Bates studied at Harvard Law School, where he was awarded the prize for the best essay. As a lawyer he became the Assistant Attorney General of the state of Delaware from 1869 to 1874 and Speaker of the House of Representatives in Delaware in 1883. Subsequently he was employed by the federal government as the United States Commissioner to Samoa and Tonga in 1886, and as Special Envoy Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary for the U. S. at the 1889 international conference at Berlin concerning affairs in the Samoan Islands. A staunch Democrat, he represented Delaware on the Democratic National Committee and was a delegate to the Democratic conventions in 1880, 1884, and 1888. Bates was also one of the organizers and one-time president of the American Bar Association and chairman of the international law committee of that organization. After his retirement in 1896, he became the author of several legal textbooks.

George Handy Bates was married to Elizabeth Ballister Russell. He died on October 30, 1916, in Philadelphia.





A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M, N, O, P, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z

For more individuals see the University Archives' collections of personal papers


More on the College Class of 1865