CalCoastNews editor George Ramos dead at 63

July 24, 2011

By LISA RIZZO and JOSH FRIEDMAN

George Ramos, best known for being a three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times journalist, a Cal Poly journalism department chair and CalCoastNews Editor, has died. He was 63 years old.

Police officers found Ramos’ body in a hallway of his Morro Bay home Saturday after CalCoastNews investigative reporter Karen Velie insisted they break into the home and check on his well-being.

Ramos, who was suffering from increased complications from diabetes, had been unresponsive to staff calls for several days. Signs, out of the ordinary for Ramos, such as an old newspaper lying outside his front door, prompted Velie to call for help.

While an autopsy has not yet been conducted, his death is suspected to be from natural causes. His time of death was not immediately known.

Boisterous, fiery and passionate, Ramos was a man known for many things and when you crossed his path it was unlikely you could forget that fact. Ramos was a proud man and rightfully so, considering his life of many accomplishments.

Ramos was also a man who put his aspirations for a conventional family life aside and instead dedicated his life to journalism and helping to advance the lives of Latinos.

After his graduation from the Cal Poly Journalism Department in 1969, Ramos spent 25 years as a reporter, editor, bureau chief and columnist at the Los Angeles Times.

But first he went to Vietnam.

Ramos joined the war effort in 1970, serving as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.

From Oklahoma to Kansas to West Germany, he was ultimately sent to the Quang Ngai province in South Vietnam. In 1971, Ramos saw combat duty as an artillery forward observer assigned to infantry troops and became a first lieutenant fire direction officer to support infantry troop movements.

Ramos said his service to his country and the Purple Heart he was awarded after suffering a leg wound were his greatest achievements.

As a Vietnam Vet, Ramos joined the Los Angeles Times in 1978 and went on to win three Pulitzer Prizes during his career with the newspaper, which ended in 2003.

“George was particularly dedicated during his career to mentoring young Latinos and people of color to help them break into journalism, and he was a reporter who loved being a reporter and then tried to pass that on to students when he went into teaching,” said Bob Rawitch, fellow reporter and Ramos’ former editor at the Times.

Ramos made history with his first Pulitzer Prize in 1984, becoming the first Latino journalist ever to win the prestigious Pulitzer Prize Gold Medal for Meritorious Public Service.

As co-editor and reporter, Ramos was commended for leading a team of Latino journalists that produced a three-week series of stories about the roots, lives and aspirations of the 3 million Latinos who lived in California’s 13 southern counties.

Then in 1993, Ramos took home his second Pulitzer Prize with the Los Angeles Times, this time for on-the-spot reporting on the riots that followed the verdicts in the Rodney King beating case.

Ramos wrote a first-person column about being accosted by a gun-wielding rioter on the first night of the uprising in Los Angles.

In 1995, Ramos was recognized a third time with a prestigious Pulitzer Prize for on-the-spot reporting of the Northridge earthquake that hit metropolitan Los Angeles in January of 1994.

The renowned journalist returned to the place he made his start in 2003 by taking the role of Cal Poly Journalism Department Chair.

His sense of humor seemed cunning at times as he often saved it for the serious moments, leaving a keen impression on those who knew him. As a sitting journalism professor at his time of death, Ramos nurtured many students, including much of the CalCoastNews team, during his time as a teacher and a department chief.

In 2007, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists inducted Ramos into its hall of fame for being an industry pioneer whose efforts had resulted in a greater number of Latinos entering the journalism profession and for helping improve news coverage of the nation’s Latino community.

In recent years Ramos lost his mother. His father had passed away years before. He is survived by his brother Dan Ramos.

The CalCoastNews team is deeply saddened by the loss of its beloved editor and a great icon in journalism.


  1. Spirit Filled says:

    From what I have read I can see he has left a beautiful legacy for us all. God Bless he and his family and friends. Thank you Lord for the blessings of bringing this man to us. God Bless all.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  2. blr says:

    I am sorry to hear of the passing of George Ramos. It is a deep loss to both CalCoastNews and the Cal Poly Journalism department.

    In the early days, CalCoastNews sometimes seemed to play fast and loose with the facts. Since George Ramos came on board, there has been much more attention to checking the facts and obtaining the background. He seems to have been instrumental in the improved quality and maturation of the site.

    My sympathies to his friends and family – and especially those journalists he inspired and nurtured.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  3. danika says:

    Ár n-Athair ( The Lord’s Prayer)

    Ár n-Athair atá ar neamh,
    Go naofar d’ainim,
    Go dtagfadh do ríocht,
    Go ndéantar do thoil ar an talamh
    mar a dhéantar ar neamh.
    Ár n-arán laethúil tabhair dúinn inniu,
    agus maith dúinn ár bhfiacha
    mar a mhaithimidne dár bhféichiúna féin
    (Ach ná lig sinn i gcathú,
    ach saor sinn ó olc,)

    It is in the saying of this prayer in the passing of Mr. Ramos, I express my sadness at his death and extend my condolensces to his family, friends, and colleagues.
    I am so, so sorry I never met him. Truly my loss. Bright blessings.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 10 Thumb down 0

  4. Nancimeek says:

    Just a note to say I am so sorry for your loss. Like so many others I have enjoyed reading his writings over the years. At times like these we try so hard to search for the right words to express condolences. You were a good friend to him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 2

  5. Dave says:

    Here is the Los Angeles Times coverage. Love that photo!

    http://www.latimes.com/news/obituaries/la-me-george-ramos-20110725,0,5098115.story

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 3

  6. willie says:

    George Ramos

    We are about the same age.
    According to Tibet belief, you soul still circulates in out of body examination for 9 days.
    Because the body (temple) has given out, the Astro-cord cord is now cut and you cannot return.

    Relevant quote by Abraham Lincoln:
    And in the end , it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.

    Quote from a Buddha teaching Noble Truth
    Life is Pain and suffering, suffering being optional.
    The pain and suffering in life we all undergo is an energy form, you CCN have offered truth (many feel and dare not say – transparency) to set many free and an outlet to vent among the council of many educated and wise (Book of Proverb) that post here.

    Moreso, you have been blessed in your last days with the best support staff anyone can have (Karen and Dave).

    We will meet again.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 3

  7. StefanieArocha says:

    I had the honor of him being one of my mentors in Puerto Rico one summer. When I first met him, I was scared, more intimidated. Then he sat next to me and made me laugh hysterically. He pushed me so hard those weeks. I didn’t understand why. Then he pulled me aside and told me why. He saw something in me that he truly believes in. We corresponded back and forth for some time after that. He not only helped me as a writer, but I really think George brought out the inner Latina in me and who I really am. He inspired me to write about what I know best…ME! George was one of a kind. He was special and I will miss him greatly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 16 Thumb down 2

  8. justme says:

    More evidence that, “The good die young”. Condolences to his brother.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 17 Thumb down 2

  9. CalPolyStudent says:

    I started my career as a journalism major at Cal Poly just under two years ago. One of my first college
    level classes was journalism 203 with Ramos. I have to admit, initially I was somewhat intimidated going into the class, not knowing what to expect or what kind of professor Ramos would turn out to be.
    However within just a few minutes of meeting him, I knew I had no reason to be. It was clear that Ramos cared a lot about Cal Poly’s journalism department and he wanted to see his students succeed. I’ve
    always struggled with my confidence as a writer, but Ramos helped me believe more in myself and see
    that maybe I do have what it takes. I will miss having him as a teacher and hearing all the exciting stories he had to share about his time as a journalist.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 19 Thumb down 2