BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Longtime WAFB anchor and investigative reporter Paul Gates announced Tuesday, May 31, 2011 that he is battling the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease. Gates, 64, also announced his retirement from WAFB after 34 years of service.
A native of the small town of Tullos, Louisiana, Paul joined WAFB as a reporter in March 1977. He has served as the station's 5 p.m. news anchor since 2001. His many investigative reports, titled "Paul Gates Investigates", uncovered corruption, pollution, and wrongdoing across Louisiana.
In a message that aired on the station's 5pm newscast Tuesday, Paul thanked viewers for their "flattering emails and news tips over the years."
"My wife Michele and I talked at length about me retiring," Gates said. "We both agreed the wise thing is for me to take care of myself and take retirement."
In 2001, his series of investigative reports on contamination in Bossier Parish led the governor to make an environmental policy change. Paul uncovered the fact that residents in a small community in that parish were not informed of benzene contamination in their drinking water although documents showed that the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) knew the contamination existed. Paul's reports led then Louisiana Governor Mike Foster to issue an Executive Order requiring the DEQ to put contamination notice procedures in place for all future incidents.
Paul is also well-known for his co-hosting of the twice weekly "Stirrin' It Up with Chef John Folse" cooking segments that air on WAFB's 5 p.m. newscasts. "I will miss Stirring it Up with Chef John Folse, one of my best friends, along with Jay Grymes and the entire WAFB family," Gates said.
Paul has been repeatedly honored for his work. In 1994, he was named "Reporter of the Year" by the Louisiana Associated Press. He is also the recipient of the "Lifetime Achievement Award" from the Louisiana Association of Broadcasters. For many years, Paul delivered the "news and jokes of the day" to meetings of the Baton Rouge Rotary Club during their lunchtime gatherings.
WAFB Vice President/General Manager Sandy Breland informed the station's staff of Paul's decision Tuesday morning.
"Paul has been an important part of the WAFB family and the Baton Rouge community for decades," Breland said. "He has touched the lives of many through his reporting and his honest, fun-loving demeanor. It has been a privilege and an honor to have Paul as part of our team. I know he will face his illness with the same tenacity he showed throughout his career. Our thoughts and prayers are with Paul, his wife Michelle, and the entire Gates family."
"Paul has been a tremendous part of our team and the news of his illness deeply saddens us all," said WAFB News Director Robb Hays. "In his 34 years at WAFB, Paul gained the respect of fellow journalists and viewers alike with his award-winning investigative reports and his unmatched sense of humor."
Alzheimer's is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. According to the Alzheimer's Association, symptoms usually develop slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks. In 2006, there were 26.6 million sufferers worldwide. Alzheimer's is predicted to affect 1 in 85 people globally by 2050.
Paul and his wife Michele have two adult children.