Bill Yates studied cartooning through the W.L. Evans Correspondece Course. During the War, he worked in the Navy training fighter pilots. After the War, he studied journalism at the University of Texas, and he became editor of the campus humour magazine. Yates moved to New York in 1950, where he began drawing magazine panels and editing cartoon magazines. In 1960, he created the daily 'Professor Phumble' comic, about an absent-minded professor. King Features distributed this strip until 1978. At the same time, Yates worked as an illustrator, cartoonist writer for other artists and advertising artist.
From 1973 to 1975 he drew the comic strip 'Benjy', scripted by Jim Berry. Upon the retirement of Sylvan Byck in 1978, Yates became comics editor for King Features Syndicate. In 1985, Yates took on a collaboration with Morrie Brickman, working on the 'Small Society' comic. In 1988, he succeeded Gordon Bess on writing the 'Redeye' comic (art by Mel Casson). Yates retired from his position at King Features at the end of 1988 to devote full time to his cartooning. He continued to write and draw 'The Small Society' and wrote 'Redeye' until increasing ill health forced his retirement from the strips.