He graduated from Saint Johnsbury Academy in 1880, and was a teacher and principal of the Franklin Academy until 1884.
Gates purchased a mercantile in 1884 which he operated successfully while maintaining his homestead farm. President of the Franklin County Fair Association and a Director of the Enosburg Falls Savings Bank, he also founded the Franklin Telephone Company in 1895. He served in the Vermont House from 1899 to 1900, in the state Senate from 1901 to 1902.
He was appointed a State Highway Commissioner in 1904 by Governor Charles Bell and again in 1906 by Governor Fletcher Proctor, serving on the commission until 1914.
During his service, he secured appropriations for permanent road construction and maintenance. Since Gates was deemed a Republican with progressive ideas, in 1914 he was nominated for Governor in an attempt by Republicans to heal the rift between party activists who supported President Taft"s reelection in 1912 and Progressives who supported Theodore Roosevelt.
He was elected and served from January 7, 1915 to January 4, 1917. During his term Vermont enacted direct primaries for nominating United States House and Senate candidates, worker"s compensation, a junior and senior high school system, and a public school vocational education program
Gates was an unsuccessful candidate for the Republican United States Senate nomination in 1916, after which he returned to his Franklin County business interests.
Gates died on July 1, 1927 in Franklin. He is interred at Maple Grove Cemetery, Franklin, Franklin County, Vermont.