Daisy Lee Gatson Bates (1914 – 1999)
was an American civil rights activist, publisher, journalist, and lecturer who played a leading role in the Little Rock Integration Crisis of 1957. She grew up in southern Arkansas in the small sawmill town of Huttig. She was raised by the closest friend of her father, who had left the family shortly after her mother’s death. In The Death of my Mother, Bates recounted learning as a child that her birth mother had been murdered by three local white men. Learning of her mother’s death and knowing that nothing was ever done about it fueled her anger.
Daisy’s adoptive father Orlee Smith gave her some last advice while on his death bed.
He said, “You’re filled with hatred. Hate can destroy you, Daisy. Don’t hate white people just because they’re white. If you hate, make it count for something. Hate the humiliations we are living under in the South. Hate the discrimination that eats away at the South. Hate the discrimination that eats away at the soul of every black man and woman. Hate the insults hurled at us by white scum—and then try to do something about it, or your hate won’t spell a thing.”
Bates said she had never forgotten that and it is from this memory that Bates claimed her strength for leadership came.
Daisy was 25 when she started dating Lucius Christopher Bates, an insurance salesman who had also worked on newspapers in the South and West. They dated for several months before moving to Little Rock (Pulaski County) in 1941; they were married on March 4, 1942.
In 1952, Daisy Bates was elected president of the Arkansas Conference of NAACP branches.