About

About the School

In Their Own Words:
Albert and Gladys Coates on the founding of the Institute of Government

Albert Coates Movie

The visionary founder of the Institute of Government was Albert Coates, a native North Carolinian hailing from Johnston County. Coates joined the faculty of the UNC Law School in 1923, and from this vantage point, he began to recognize "a gap between the law and government as it was taught in my Law School classroom and as it was practiced in the city halls, county courthouses, and the state capitol."

In the late 1920s, Coates began to organize "schools" for groups of local officials, primarily police officers and sheriffs, to help fill the educational gap he perceived. His experience with these schools revealed a second gap: "[E]very two or four years," he wrote in a history of the Institute, new public officials "were coming into the administration of public affairs in the cities, the counties and the State of North Carolina, knowing all too little about their powers and duties at the start; learning as they went along." The Institute of Government grew out of those experiences and was officially founded in 1931.

Coates' chief collaborator in the creation of the Institute of Government was his wife, Gladys Hall Coates. Together they sacrificed their personal funds and devoted a lifetime to moving their vision of the Institute from a dream to a thriving reality. With the help of generous donors and dues from cities and counties, the Institute operated as a private enterprise until it became part of the University of North Carolina in 1942. Albert Coates retired from his distinguished service with the Institute and the University in 1962, and he passed away in 1989. Gladys Coates passed away in 2002.