CalCoastNews editor George Ramos dead at 63

July 24, 2011


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.

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I am so heartbroken abut this news. I met George when I was 17 and had my heart set on going to Berkeley to major in journalism and become a reporter. The second I met him on a high school field trip with my school newspaper, I knew that I had to be at Cal Poly where he was. He was a constant mentor to me and gave me such a hard time about graduating early. He’s shaped a lot of who I am and where I am now today, a news producer at The Seattle Times. Rest in peace, George. You touched the lives of everyone you met.

Condolences to all that knew Mr. Ramos, it sounds as if he was a good man with many accomplishments. Gone too soon.

What sad news for the Central Coast; his role here as editor will surely be deeply missed. My condolences to all who knew him, especially Karen Velie and Dave Congalton among the others connected with Cal Coast News, and everyone up at Cal Poly. Listening to him when he was on Dave’s show brought across some of his humor and wit and all of us here in the area will miss him whether we know it or not. Stacey, I am sure that you will be able to “step up” and do a good job in George’s absence, good luck to you.

So sorry to read this. Sincere condolences to family, friends and CCN staff.

This is a terrible loss to so many. My condolences go out to his family and all who loved him. It was a terrible shock for Karen to find him, one never really expects that their concern over an absent friend will materialize into a worse case scenario. I send her additional special well wishes as she along with many will miss George Ramos for a long time to come. Rest in Peace George and thank you for all your selflessness during your journey to bring light and transparency to the mass.

Very sad news. Condolences to both family and friends.

Vaya Con Dios Jorje

Shocking and sad news…

Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family both biological and professional.

Very sad news!

My sincere condolences goes to friends and family of Mr. Ramos as well as the staff at CCN.

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