Gates will receive the medal in a ceremony on Sept. 22, 2011, in Philadelphia at the National Constitution Center on Independence Mall.
Action News Anchorman Jim Gardner will host the live broadcast of the Liberty Medal ceremony on 6abc. The event also will be streamed live on 6abc.com.
"I am deeply honored to be named to receive the Liberty Medal," said Secretary Robert Gates in a statement. "I look forward to coming to Philadelphia for the ceremony in September."
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Liberty Medal sponsors made the announcement Thursday. They say Gates has built a legacy of defending freedom, promoting diplomacy and supporting U.S. troops worldwide.
"Secretary Gates' steadfast commitment to the well-being of our men and women in uniform makes him an ideal recipient of this year's Liberty Medal," said President Bill Clinton, Chair of the National Constitution Center. "As he embarks on his next chapter, we are pleased to honor his many years of distinguished service to our country."
Gates has served eight presidents. He also is the only U.S. Defense Secretary who has served presidents of different parties.
The Liberty Medal was first given in 1989. Previous winners include rock singer and human rights activist Bono, former South African President Nelson Mandela and former President Jimmy Carter.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.