NWRR Blog Post: The Yates Family Papers

In recognition of African American History Month, Yakima Valley Libraries (YVL) is pleased to share the stories of Dorothy “Doe” Gene Yates and her parents, McKinley and Odessa Yates. YVL’s Northwest Reading Room stewards a collection named the Yates Family Papers which was gifted to the Library in 2023 by a representative of the Yates Family. The collection comprises photographs, information on Dorothy’s studies/career, and letters of correspondence between McKinley and Odessa during WWII. Here is a snapshot of their life stories which Archive Librarian, Carlos Pelley, researched from the collection.

The Early Years

McKinley and Odessa married in 1937, and their daughter, Dorothy Gene Yates, was born on September 25, 1938. In 1942, the Yates family moved from Edwards, Mississippi to Yakima, Washington. During the same year, McKinley joined the U.S. Army and served in the North African theater until 1945, when he was honorably discharged. After that, he worked as a postal worker from 1952 until his retirement in 1986.

McKinley & Odessa in Masonic garb

McKinley Yates was very active in the community as a member of Mount Hope Baptist Church of Yakima for 48 years. During that time, he served as the moderator of the church, Chairman of the Deacons, and Chairman of the building committee. He was also a member of several other organizations, including The Guiding Star Lodge No. 6 and Prince Hall Grand Lodge, which are appendant bodies of the Freemasons. He died on November 27, 1989.

Odessa Yates, was a machine operator at Del Monte Corporation in Yakima for 30 years. She was also a member of the Mount Hope Baptist Church and a member of the Naomi Chapter Number 5 of the Eastern Star, which is also a freemason organization. She died on July 13, 1979.



Dorothy’s Studies

1960 fashion show at Louise Salinger Academy of Fashion and School of Dress Design

Dorothy, or “Doe,” graduated from Yakima High School in 1957.  She moved to San Francisco when she was 21 to attend the Louise Salinger Academy of Fashion and School of Dress Design and graduated in 1960. Though clearly a gifted designer (See her model, what we believe to be, her designs in the images shown), her studies did not stop there.

In 1962, Dorothy earned her Bachelor of Social Work from San Francisco State University. The same year, she was confirmed in Grace Cathedral, an Episcopal Church in the heart of San Francisco, by Bishop James Pike.

In 1986, Dorothy completed her theological studies at the School for Deacons of the Diocese of California and was ordained to the diaconate. Then, in 1997, Dorothy earned an associate’s degree in science from the School of Business Administration from the City College of San Francisco.

Dorothy’s Career

2012 0rdination of Dorothy Doe Yates

Dorothy’s professional life includes work as an analyst for Foreign Labor Certification. After 41 years, she retired from the U.S. Federal Government in 2009. Her career continued in 2012, when the Rev. Dorothy Gene Yates was ordained to the Sacred Order of Deacons by the Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, bishop of California at Grace Cathedral, in San Francisco. She served many church communities and ministries in San Francisco, and she made history as the first African American woman clergy at Grace Episcopal Church. On September 1, 2021, Dorothy Yates died.

Dorothy “Doe” Gene Yates’s life and career exemplify the tradition with which she was raised, and she carried it throughout her life. Yates’s strong sense of service, creativity, and attention to detail led to her success throughout her life and career.

Yakima Valley Libraries is joyful to have the opportunity to preserve and share African American History in the Yakima Valley and beyond. If you would like to explore the Yates Family Papers, visit the Northwest Reading Room at Yakima Central Library, where the collection will be on display for your viewing all month.

-Written by Carlos Pelley, Archive Librarian

For more fascinating stories archived in YVL’s Northwest Reading room, visit Yakima Central Library Monday – Friday, 9am – 6pm and Saturday by appointment. Learn more about this service online or email us at archives@yvl.org.

“Rev. Yates Ordained to Sacred Order of Deacons in California.” Yakima Herald-Republic, 9 Mar. 2013, www.yakimaherald.com/community/faith/rev-yates-ordained-to-sacred-order-of-deacons-in-california/article_e5a05250-7529-54d1-aba6-6ce6457e207d.html. Accessed 7 Feb. 2024.

Stanger, The Rev. Canon Mark. Requiem for the Rev. Dorothy “Doe” Gene Yates: Friday, October 8.” Grace Cathedral, 2 Sept. 2021, gracecathedral.org/2021/09/02/r-i-p-the-rev-deacon-doe-yates/. Accessed 7 Feb. 2024.

Shaw & Sons Memorial Chapel. “Obituary for Odessa E. Yates.” The Yakima Daily Republic, 13 July 1979.

Shaw & Sons Memorial Chapel. “Obituary for McKinley Yates.” The Yakima Herald-Republic, 27 November 1989.