Cates was the only child of the late Virgil Earl Cates and Eva Mae Cavin Cates. He was born Jan. 19, 1941, in Sturkie.
Cates married Vivian Eagleman Aug. 28, 1964, in Leota, Mo. He had three children from that marriage.
On Oct. 29, 1992, he married Judy Coil Alexander in Horseshoe Bend.
Cates graduated from West Plains High School in 1958 and served in the U.S. Army from 1960 to 1962.
Cates spent many years working for the media in the area. He worked as a reporter for the West Plains Quill and Areawide Media, where he also served as a editor. He was also a radio announcer and television news anchor.
"I found him to be a good, solid and dependable person," said Gary Clayton, former publisher of Areawide Media. "He worked for me for several years. He did a good job; we're going to miss him."
Gene Cooper, owner of Tri-Mountain Television, worked with Cates on several projects over the years. Cooper and Cates worked together at radio stations KSRB, KSAR and KHEM as well as the Cassville Republican and Areawide Media.
"He was wonderful to work with," Cooper said. "Everyone trusted him. Everyone liked Max."
"I nicknamed him Scoop because he was always scooping the other news media," Cooper said.
"He was a wonderful man," said current Areawide Media publisher Janie Flynn. "He was very smart."
Besides working in the media he gave politics a try, serving on the Salem School Board.
His survivors include his wife, Judy, of Oxford; children Jennifer D. Cates of Nashville, Tenn., Max E. Cates Jr. of Newton, Iowa, and Edward E. Cates and wife, Cresta, of Lafayette, Ind.; grandchildren Morgan Dixon and Solomon Cates; and a host of relatives and friends.
Cates was preceded in death by his parents and grandson, Robert Dixon.