Gift Children: A Story of Race, Family, and Adoption in a Divided America

Eugene/Springfield–Nearly 50 years ago, a young Eugene couple, Doug and Gloria Bates, both white and the parents of two very blond little boys, adopted a pair of young African-American girls. It thrust the family to the forefront of a controversial social experiment that’s still being debated today. So how did it all work out for the Bateses? Join Doug Bates, a University of Oregon graduate and Pulitzer Prizewinning journalist, for a discussion of his book, Gift Children, in which he tells the compelling and sometimes gritty story of his family’s interracial odyssey. The book draws its title from a custom of the Old South, where the adoption of “gift children” by close friends was common among poor blacks. Though published 25 years ago, Gift Children remains a remarkably relevant portrait of family and race today, exploring the theme of whites and blacks trying to live together in a country gripped by racial dissension. Bates retired in 2009 as an associate editor at The Oregonian and a member of its editorial board. He has worked as assistant managing editor of The San Diego Union-Tribune, news editor of The Seattle Times and managing editor of The Register-Guard in Eugene. He has also held editing and writing positions at daily newspapers in Spokane and Bend. In 2006, Bates was co-recipient of the Pulitzer Prize, along with his colleague at The Oregonian, Rick Attig, who is also a UO journalism alumnus. Their 15-part series on abusive conditions at the Oregon State Hospital won the prize for editorial writing along with several other national honors. Born in McMinnville, Oregon, Bates grew up in Oakridge and graduated from the University of Oregon with a degree in journalism in 1968. He and his wife Gloria moved back to Oakridge in retirement. Besides Gift Children, Bates is also the author of The Pulitzer Prize: The Inside Story of America’s Most Prestigious Award, a book he wrote 15 years before receiving the honor himself.