Joseph Bates, politician and soldier, was born in Mobile, Alabama, on January 19, 1805. Though a businessman rather than a lawyer, he became a prominent Whig politician and served as a representative in the Alabama legislature in 1829, 1836, 1837, and 1840. He was defeated in the election for the state Senate in 1838. He took part in the Seminole War of 1835 and became a major general of the Alabama militia.
He moved to Galveston, Texas, in 1845 and was elected mayor three years later. President Millard Fillmore appointed him United States marshal for the eastern district of Texas from 1850 to 1853, when he was succeeded by Benjamin McCulloch. In 1854 he moved to a large plantation on the west side of the San Bernard River in Brazoria County, where he engaged in farming and ranching until his death.
At the outbreak of the Civil War Bates was appointed a colonel in the Confederate Army. He raised a regiment that later became, after several reorganizations, the Thirteenth (Bates's) Texas Infantry. He was placed in command of the coast defenses between Galveston and Matagorda Island and established headquarters at Velasco. From May to September 1863 he and his regiment served in Louisiana under Maj. Gen. Richard Taylor. For a time Bates was commander of the post at Brashear City.
His moderation and firmness during Reconstruction went far in bringing about a peaceful adjustment of affairs in Brazoria County. He was noted for his commanding physical appearance and for his abilities as a public speaker. He was a member of the Brazoria Lodge No. 327, A.F. and A.M. He was twice married. By his first wife he had seven children. By his second, Mrs. Mary Love Morris of Galveston, whom he married in 1851, he had five children. Bates died on February 18, 1888, and was buried in the Episcopal Cemetery in Galveston.