Gilvin "Gil" Bates was born on January 1, 1965, to Bill and Jane Bates in Honea Path, South Carolina. He was the couple's first child, and was followed by two more children.
Gil was said to be obsessed with football from even a young age, having a uniform by the age of two and playing by the age of eight. As a child he attended Methodist churches.
He attended Belton-Honea Path High School. In tenth grade, his football coach, Kenny Ashley, started a chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and soon after Gil became a Christian. He asked his parents for permission to attend Austin Road Baptist Church, which they granted. As a senior, Gil won the 1983 South Carolina State Wrestling Champion and was voted Most Outstanding Wrestler.
Gil began college at Anderson University, where he met Kelly Jo Callaham. The two served on a the same ministry team, and when Gil needed tutoring for his chemistry class, Kelly Jo was the lab assistant. The two then transferred to Carson Newman University. Gil proposed to Kelly while they were still in school. Gil and Kelly got married on December 19, 1987.
Although Gil and Kelly had expected to not start having children until they had been married for five years, Kelly got pregnant only a few months after getting married, and on December 30, 1988, the couple's first child, Zachary Gilvin, was born. Just over a year later, Zach was joined by a sister, Michael Christian, on January 23, 1990. Kelly quickly got pregnant again, and by this point Gil said he "got excited about having children". This child, Erin Elise, was born on May 2, 1991, and was joined by sixteen more: William Lawson (7/27/92), Kenneth Nathaniel (8/29/93), Alyssa Joy (11/9/94), Tori Layne (12/20/95), Trace Whitfield (2/1/97), Carlin Brianne (4/11/98), Josie Kellyn (8/4/99), Katie Grace (10/5/00), Jackson Ezekiel (2/17/02), Warden Justice (5/19/03), Isaiah Courage (10/16/04), Addallee Hope (2/17/06), Ellie Bridge (4/28/07), Callie-Anna Rose (8/2/09), Judson Wyatt (9/15/10), and Jeb Colton (2/1/12).
Gil is a very involved father, and does his best to spend as much quality time with his children as possible. At her graduation party in 2016, Carlin said she aspired to be like her father, saying, "He’s always been faithful in the little things. He’s steady in the Lord. Whatever he does, he doesn’t lose his cool."
On November 2, 2013, Gil's daughter Erin married Chad Paine. The couple has five children, Charles Stephen "Carson" (5/14/15), Brooklyn Elise (8/6/16), Everly Hope (3/30/18), Holland Grace (11/26/19), and Finley Marie (1/18/22).
On December 14, 2013, Gil's son Zach married Whitney Perkins. The couple has four children, Bradley Gilvin (10/29/14), Kaci Lynn (5/20/16), Khloe Eileen (11/07/19), and Jadon Carl (07/06/21).
On May 24, 2014, Gil's daughter Alyssa married John Webster. The couple has four children, Allie Jane (4/11/15), Lexi Mae (1/26/17), Zoey Joy (3/28/18) and Maci Jo (02/09/21).
On August 15, 2015, Gil's daughter Michaela married Brandon Keilen. The couple currently does not have any children, and has been vocal about their struggles with infertility.
On December 16, 2017, Gil's daughter Tori married Bobby Smith. The couple has three children, Robert "Kade" Ellis (11/9/18), Kolter Gray (03/25/20) and Charlotte Raine (6/24/21).
On May 25, 2019, Gil's daughter Carlin married Evan Stewart. The couple has two children, Layla Rae (01/31/20) and Zade Patrick (03/27/22).
Gil owns a tree excavating company, Bates Tree Service. As his sons have grown old enough to help, he has employed them in this business as well. He acknowledges that it's a dangerous job, even when you take safety precautions. "We've had some close calls, and I get awful nervous, but we've had no mishaps, thank the Lord." Even with this business, however, Gil also struggles to make ends meet. His son, Lawson, opened his own lawn care business as a young teenager, and Gil often relied on teenage Lawson's income to help make ends meet.
In September of 2015, Gil opened his own church, Bible Baptist Church, in Clinton, TN. Gil is still the pastor there today. He also serves on the board of directors for the Institute in Basic Life Principles.
Gil Bates and his family's close family friends, the Duggar family, premiered their own reality show, 17 Kids and Counting, on TLC in 2008. In the episode "When Big Families Collide", which aired on October 13, 2008, the show's viewers were introduced to the Bates family. Gil and his family went on to appear in a number of episodes in the show's ten season run.
On March 13, 2012, a special episode of the show, "The Bates Family: And Baby Makes 19" premiered, which served as a sort of re-introduction to the family before the premiere of their own TLC show, United Bates of America, on August 13, 2012. The show ran for one season, before announcing on October 6, 2012, that it had been canceled.
On November 18, 2014, the family announced they had begun filming for a second reality show, Bringing Up Bates. Bringing Up Bates, which premiered on UpTV on January 1, is currently in its eleventh season.
Sexual Assault Scandal
On October 20, 2015, a lawsuit was filed against the Institute in Basic Life Principles and its board members, which included Gil Bates. The lawsuit was filed by five women who claimed the experienced "sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and inappropriate/unauthorized touching" while working at IBLP. David Gibbs III, son of IBLP member David Gibbs, Jr., owned one of the law firms that represented the case. This lawsuit followed an internal investigation that IBLP conducted about sexual abuse allegations in 2014, which the plaintiffs felt was not handled properly. After the initial internal investagtion, IBLP's founder, Bill Gothard, had resigned on March 5, 2014.
On November 13, 2015, the board of directions released a statement claiming that the lawsuit was misplaced, with Bill Gothard being the only source of misbehavior. Due to the fact that none of the board members at that time had been on the board when the plaintiffs were working for the Institute, they felt confident that they were not at fault, and stressed that no members of the board had been involved in any sort of cover-up.
On December 2, 2015, the complaint was dismissed due to failing to state the necessary facts.
On January 6, 2016, a second lawsuit was filed. This lawsuit named Bill Gothard, but dropped the allegations against the individual board members, which included Gil. It still was against the corporation as a whole.
- officiant: his daughter Alyssa Bates's wedding to John Webster (5/24/14)
- officiant: his daughter Michael Bates's wedding to Brandon Keilen (8/15/15)
- officiant: his daughter Tori Bates's wedding to Bobby Smith (12/16/17)
- officiant: his son Zachary Bates's vow renewal to Whitney Perkins (6/14/18)
- officiant: his daughter Josie Bates's wedding to Kelton Balka (10/5/18)
- officiant: his daughter Carlin Bates's wedding to Evan Stewart (5/25/19)
- best man: his son Nathan Bates's wedding to Esther Keyes (10/22/21)
- officiant: his daughter Katie Bates's wedding to Travis Clark (12/3/21)