George Edward Cates
1937 - 2021
BORN
1937
DIED
2021
George Edward Cates was born in Burlington, North Carolina on September 25, 1937 and spent his formative years there and in Macon, Georgia before finishing high school in Atlanta, Georgia. He attended Georgia Institute of Technology, graduating in 1959, where he played golf and adopted a life-long addiction to The Varsity restaurant. He finished most prayers with, "Bless Georgia Tech".

After marrying his lifelong partner and love, Bena, he moved to Memphis, Tennessee, and began working for Buckeye Cellulose. He left to work in real estate development and later started The Cates Company in 1977, focusing on apartments. In 1994, The Cates Company went public on the New York Stock Exchange and changed its name to Mid-America Apartment Communities (now MAA).

A born servant leader, he focused on nurturing people and building deep relationships whether in business or civic engagement. In addition to the formation of a long-term business that created thousands of meaningful and high quality jobs, he served his community with vigor. Cates served on numerous boards including The Memphis and Shelby Airport Authority; Memphis Botanic Garden (Chair); The Community Foundation of Greater Memphis (Chair); Memphis Rotary Club (Chair); Memphis Light, Gas & Water (Chair); The Memphis Symphony Orchestra (Chair); Methodist Healthcare; First Tennessee Bank; The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees; The University of Tennessee Endowment; and in the last decade was the founding Co-Chair of both Neighborhood Preservation, Inc. and Overton Park Conservancy. Friends and colleagues have consistently pointed out his resistance to taking credit for so many of the things he accomplished, which was his standard operating procedure. He also had a secret weapon at his side in all he did, his wife Bena.

He loved life and lived it fully. He was adventurous and traveled all over the world. His passion for aviation was an important component in building his company, but also in serving others, which he did by flying families with health-related needs all across the country. He was an instrument rated pilot holding multi-engine certification in both turbo props and jets.

Although he didn't seek accolades, he received numerous awards including Georgia Tech's Dean Griffin Community Service Award in 2017.

Most importantly, to him and to those he loved, he was an extraordinary husband, father, grandfather, and friend. All who knew him were blessed by his quick wit, empathy, joy, compassion and love for all. He was intellectually curious and open-minded in an exemplary way. He lived his faith.

He leaves his wife of 60 years (as of June 16th, 2021), Bena Broyles Cates; his son Staley Cates and Staley's children Edward, Edward's wife Avery and their son James, and Staley's daughter Margaret Cates Luna and her husband Matt Luna, as well as Staley's partner Sabine Langer and her children India and Kai; his son Andy Cates and his wife Allison, and their children Stephen and Frances; as well as so many dearly loved family members and friends.

He will be buried in a family only graveside service with a Memorial service to be set for a later date.

The family asks any gifts in his honor be directed to the Memphis area, including places he cared deeply about such as Overton Park Conservancy, Neighborhood Preservation, Inc, Memphis Fourth Estate, Soulsville, and Alpha Omega Services.
Published by The Daily Memphian on Jun. 22, 2021.
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25 Entries
Bena.I remember you so well in high school.I was a new 10th. grader from Kansas City and did not know a soul.I just remember your being nice to me and I remember you at Emory as well.You and George were very special people, and of course,Armand was a classmate of George's at Georgia Tech,as much a fan as George.I remember seeing you and George at the capital city club when he and Armand had their 60th Ga.Tech reunion.We both enjoyed spending time talking to you both.We are so sorry for you, your family, and the community.A great loss
travis and Armand breard
Friend
July 21, 2021
Bena, I found a copy of Pilgrims Progress today that I believe you gave to me years ago. It reminded me how blessed I have been to be acquainted with so many members of your family. You and George have given us a legacy of goodness. My sympathies to you and your children. Ron
Ron McDonald
Work
July 3, 2021
What incredibly generous, thoughtful, kind people this family is. They went out of their way to be helpful to me and I will never forget their kindness.
Mimi Lupin
Friend
July 3, 2021
Dearest Bena, We're both so sorry to hear the news. Know that you and your great family are in our prayers. I miss our days with Jean at the CHC ! You're in my heart, always. God bless you. Paul & Elton
Paul Brown & Elton Taylor
Work
July 2, 2021
Bob and I were both sorry to hear about George. He and Bena have been interested in improving everything they were involved in and have touched many lives George will be missed by family and friends. You are all in our prayers.
Joyce A Mollerup/Robert H. Buckman
Friend
June 28, 2021
What a fine, intelligent, dedicated, and caring gentleman. George was kind enough to come to my Father's visitation. That meant so much to me. This is a great loss to our city. Thanks from me and all the citizens of Memphis. Lex
Lex Bonner
Friend
June 28, 2021
What a wonderful human being...glad you were born (as George would say)! He was an inspiration to all that he touched!
Gayle Mackovic
Work
June 28, 2021
I´m so very sorry for Your loss. What an honorable, caring and fun man. Memphis will miss him enormously. For the family, how amazing to have know him.
Ann Schultz
Other
June 25, 2021
Dottie Wilson
June 25, 2021
One of the best. I worked for him at The Cates Co he made everyone feel like family. My condolences to the whole family.
Kim jones
Work
June 25, 2021
I am so sad for the loss of this sweet soul. My Mother, ( Mary Lou Simone) worked for him for several years. He by her words, "was the best bosses she ever had. As a child I remember his kindness by letting me come into his office and eat from his candy jar. He always had a smile for me.
Mary Boggan
June 25, 2021
I always called him "Pops". He always greeted me with a warm wide smile and genuine interest in what I was doing and how I was doing. One of my fondest memories was Pops inviting me over to meet with him in his office behind the house to give me personal and business advice that sticks with me to this day. He was a faithful example of what we all should strive to be...a caring, loving human being who put their live into action. His wife and sons are like family to my family. They´ve stood with and supported us in some of the most challenging times we have faced and helped us in ways that we can never repay. I´m proud to have known Mr Cates and we will miss him here on earth, but we know he´s received his heavenly reward. "Well done thou good and faithful servant." Rest In Peace "Pops". -Darrell, Mikki, Brooks, Shirley, Donnell III, and Kailen Cobbins
Darrell Cobbins and Family
June 24, 2021
Dear Bena, Susannah Rankin Smith just told of George´s death, and I wanted to be in touch. Over the years I had picked up snippets of news about you and George in Memphis, but the articles of appreciation about you both are truly inspiring. What lives well lived! You always were a very special person in my early life, and now I realize how important George was in being the impatient, creative person he was. Bless you both. With great affection, Nancy
Nancy Brooks Jones
School
June 24, 2021
Cates Family, Please accept our deepest condolences of the loss of your loved one. Although we did not know your family, We reside in Mercer, Tn. My family and I hope that you find peace .
Lisa Bishop & Family
Other
June 24, 2021
A life well lived. "May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest " (W.S,)
Owen Tabor
Friend
June 24, 2021
One of the best! Worked for him at Cates Co. He never missed sending me a birthday card, long after I was no longer employed at MAA.
Margaret Savarin
Coworker
June 24, 2021
One of the best men I have ever met. My prayers for the family,my God give you the pease that he can only give.
Sylvia Wilson
Coworker
June 24, 2021
To Bena and to the Cates family, sympathy

When I have lasted long enough to see beauty,
Lost with the loss of a friend,
I cannot replace unreplaceable,
Have only the memory to mend.

Maury wade
Maury Wade
Friend
June 23, 2021
Offering our deepest condolences during this difficult time.
Staff of Memorial Park Funeral Home & Cemetery
June 23, 2021
As the days and weeks pass, and as you return to life's routine, may you continue to feel comforted by the love and support of family and friends.
William and Berta L. Moss
June 23, 2021
Two weeks ago, on a rainy Tuesday, George took our two granddaughters under his wing and showed them the subtleties of Memphis Country Club greens. It was a practice round for the upcoming Tennessee Junior Amateur to be played at MCC in early July. Beyond showing them how to play MCC, George was extremely encouraging to them, complimenting their good shots and telling them it is about the next shot after poor ones, reflecting on his golfing days at Georgia Tech. That is who George was, a kind, thoughtful and encouraging person, who was always looking for a way to help others. Like so many others, we feel lucky to have known George and to have lived in a city that he and Bena worked so passionately to enhance in all its dimensions.
Bill Evans and Mary Relling
Mary Relling
Friend
June 23, 2021
This was a horrible, traumatic loss of a wonderful contributing life. God bless his family and give them strength. He will be missed at Rotary and Methodist Hospital where I knew him.
John Hodges
Friend
June 22, 2021
Simply one of the kindest gentleman that we know. His wonderful smile was infectious. We will miss him. Our deepest condolences to Bena and the entire Cates Family. This is a tremendous loss for our community. Praying for comfort and strength during this difficult time.
Belinda and Calvin Anderson and family
Friend
June 22, 2021
An incredibly special man who put other's before self. There's no replacing the man he was or the legacy he leaves behind. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Cates family.
Jason Byrd
Friend
June 22, 2021
George was one of the kindest, gentleman I have ever known. Always a big smile on his face. I knew him from Biltmore Forest Country Club. He always had a kind word. My condolences to his family. He was a man of honor.
Sheila S Fender
Friend
June 22, 2021
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