Skip to main content

Robert M. Gates papers

Identifier: MS 00069

  • Staff Only
  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The Robert M. Gates papers primarily cover his professional life, from his work with the Central Intelligence Agency, to his presidency at Texas A&M University, to his retirement as Secretary of Defense.  Also accounted for in this collection are papers associated with his three books: From the Shadows, Duty, and A Passion for Leadership, in addition to items from his high school and higher education years.

Please note that there is cross-over among several of the series. For example, there is a series for Texas A&M University, but there are also references to it in the Correspondence series and elsewhere. There is also Department of Defense correspondence in files associated with Gates' book, Duty.  Please be aware that researching multiple series might be necessary for a specific topic and/or time period.

The Department of Defense series covers Gates' confirmation as Secretary of Defense through his retirement from this post and is arranged chronologically.  The files contain his calendars, correspondence, clippings, photographs, DVDs, itineraries for official trips, and signed menus from White House dinners.  Also present in this series is the "Early Bird," a daily compilation of news articles that related to Gates and/or the Department of Defense.  While many of Gates' trips during this period were to meet with foreign defense ministers and other dignitaries, there were also numerous visits to military bases both domestically and abroad, as well as visits to the Naval Academy, Air Force Academy, and West Point.  There are photographs from many of these trips.  Correspondents include departmental staff, government officials, politicians, and members of the military and their families.  Familiar names include, but are not limited to, President George H. W. and Barbara Bush, President George W. and Laura Bush, Hillary Clinton, Donald Rumsfeld, Ted Kennedy, and Nancy Pelosi.

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and National Security Council (NSC) series mainly covers Gates' career with the CIA, though the NSC is represented. The bulk of this material covers his first nomination for the post of Director of the CIA in 1986 through his second nomination and appointment in 1991 and is largely arranged chronologically.  The series includes correspondence, speeches, clippings, audiovisual material, White House event programs, invitations, and menus, VHS cassettes, and ephemera. There are photographs of Gates with Presidents Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush.  Correspondents include, but are not limited to, Presidents Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush, Henry Kissinger, Colin Powell, Joe Biden, and Bob Dole.

The Texas A&M University series covers Gates' candidacy for and appointment to the post of President through his resignation. It also includes material from his time as Interim Dean of the George Bush School for Government and Public Service and is primarily arranged chronologically.  Subjects covered include institutional matters, such as grade exclusions and diversity in admissions, as well as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the Bush Presidential Library, and turning down President George W. Bush's offer to become the first director of National Intelligence.  Subjects of photographs include football games, President George H. W. and Barbara Bush, Reverend Billy Graham, and Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.  Correspondents include, but are not limited to, President George H. W. Bush, Ted Kennedy, Reverend Billy Graham, and Rick Perry.  Some audiovisual materials and electronic storage media are present.

The Boy Scouts of America series is arranged chronologically and is mainly correspondence related to changes in the organization's membership policy regarding sexual orientation.  This series also includes an optical disc.

The Correspondence series is also arranged chronologically and spans the years 1992-2014.  Subjects include the dedication of the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library, the Boy Scouts, the Department of Defense, the College of William & Mary (including his appointment as Chancellor in 2012), Texas A&M, the CIA, and appearances.  Correspondents include, but are not limited to, Presidents George H. W. Bush, Gerald Ford, and George W. Bush, Nancy Reagan, Joe and Jill Biden, Hillary Clinton, David Patraeus, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Larry King, Charles Robb, Elizabeth Dole, Bob Dole, Mitch McConnell, Lindsey Graham, Tony Blair, and Madeleine Albright.  There are also optical discs, a flash drive, and 3.5" diskette.

The Publications series is divided into three sub-series, based on Gates' books and in the order they were published: From the Shadows, Duty, and A Passion for Leadership.  Each sub-series includes drafts, galley proofs, source material, and supplemental files.  Of particular note is the presence of correspondence in several source material folders, especially for Duty.  Some of this correspondence is specific to Gates' time as Secretary of Defense.  There are also optical discs in this series.

The Speeches series is arranged chronologically.  The events, not the title of the speeches, were supplied on the original folders, and that was maintained.  There may be duplication of speeches within other series.  Most of the events are specific to the Boy Scouts of America. Some folders contain correspondence.

The General series includes five sub-series: Education, Research Files, Teaching Files, Subject Files, and Items Collected by Isabel V. Gates, Dr. Gates' mother.  The Education sub-series includes material from his high school, the College of William & Mary, Indiana University, and Georgetown University.  His grades while at William & Mary are available in this sub-series with the expressed consent of Dr. Gates (and per his wish).  The Research Files sub-series primarily contain clippings and articles related to Russia and the Soviet Union, likely compiled through his years in higher education.  The Teaching Files sub-series includes lecture notes from the brief time he taught both American History and Western Civilization at Northern Virginia Community College.  The Subject Files sub-series contains files of varying subjects, including the Carter-Ford Debate, the dedication of the Robert M. Gates Intelligence Complex, and Gates' U. S. Air Force records.  His mother, Isabel V. Gates, kept clippings wherein he was mentioned.  She created a scrapbook of some of the clippings, but the others are loose. There is also an optical disc associated with this series.

The audiovisual items and electronic storage media are closed for further processing.  Most of the audiovisual items are of interviews done by Gates with various news outlets and are on VHS cassettes.  Copyright is retained by the creators of the footage.  The optical discs vary as to content, but the majority are digital photographic files for which print copies exist in the collection.


  • Creation: 1946-2015
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1966-2014

Conditions Governing Access:

The collection is open to all researchers. Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations, such as the Virginia Public Records Act (Code of Virginia. § 42.1-76-91); and the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (Code of Virginia § 2.2-3705.5). Confidential material may include, but is not limited to, educational, medical, and personnel records. If sensitive material is found in this collection, please contact a staff member immediately. The disclosure of personally identifiable information pertaining to a living individual may have legal consequences for which the College of William and Mary assumes no responsibility.

Conditions Governing Use:

Before reproducing or quoting from any materials, in whole or in part, permission must be obtained from the Special Collections Research Center, and the holder of the copyright, if not Swem Library.

Conditions Governing Use

Series 2 can only be viewed in Special Collections. Scans, photocopies and photographs are not permitted.

Biographical / Historical

Born September 25, 1943, Robert Michael Gates is a native of Wichita, Kansas, where he graduated from Wichita East High School and distinguished himself as an Eagle Scout. He earned his bachelor's degree in history from the College of William & Mary, his master's degree in history from Indiana University, and his doctorate in Russian and Soviet history from Georgetown University.

Dr. Gates joined the Central Intelligence Agency in 1966 and was then commissioned as a US Air Force second lieutenant in 1967 as part of a CIA program.  He served as an intelligence officer with the Air Force until 1969.  During his career, he spent nearly nine years on the White House National Security Council, serving four presidents from both the Republican and Democratic parties.  He served as the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence from 1986 until 1989, and as Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser from 1989 until 1991.  He then served as Director of Central Intelligence until 1993. 

Dr. Gates was the Interim Dean of the George Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M from 1999-2001.  From 2002-2006, he was President of Texas A& M University. From this academic position, he re-entered government service as the 22nd Secretary of Defense.

Serving as Secretary of Defense from 2006-2011, Secretary Gates made history as the only Secretary of Defense asked to remain in office by a newly-elected President, when retained by President Barack Obama in 2008.  Following his retirement from the Department of Defense, he became the 24th Chancellor of his alma mater, the College of William & Mary.

Over his distinguished career, Dr. Gates has been awarded the National Security Medal, the Presidential Citizens Medal, and has received both the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal and is a three time recipient of the CIA's highest award, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal.  He was presented with the nation's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, by President Obama in 2011 for his outstanding dedication and service to the United States of America.

Source: Biography came directly from the program for the Dedication Ceremony of the Robert M. Gates Intelligence Complex (2012).


134.50 Linear Feet (268 Boxes.)



Arrangement of Materials:

The collection was arranged into eight series, largely prescribed by the donor, though their order was at the discretion of the archivist.

Physical Characteristics or Technical Requirements:

Audiovisual material and electronic storage media are closed for further processing.

Acquisition Information:


Guide to the Robert M. Gates papers
Kim Sims and William & Mary Special Collections Research Center staff.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Research Center Repository