He was born in Cincinnati, Ohio received an undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago. He was in the United States Army during World War II. He returned to the University of Chicago after the war and earned a masters and Phd.
He had teaching stints at the University of Chicago, University of California, Riverside, New York University Institute of Fine Arts, Pomona College, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Delaware and Brown University.
In 1968–69 he served a 10-month tenure as director the Museum of Modern Art. David Rockefeller, chairman of the museum, said he was dismissed because he had attempted to take on the job of curator of the painting and sculpture at the museum which caused strife in the department and because he did a major renovation to his office without MoMA board approval.
In 1980 he became founding director of the National Building Museum and oversaw the establishment and renovation of its home in the 1881 Pension Building. He remained there until 1987.
- GRACE GLUECKPublished: March 18, 2004 (2004-03-18). "Bates Lowry, 80, Head of Building Museum – New York Times". Nytimes.com. Retrieved 2012-12-10.
|Directors of the Museum of Modern Art
John B. Hightower