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George Ramos dies at 63; former Times reporter and columnist

Ramos played a key role in a groundbreaking series on Latinos in Southern California that won the paper a Pulitzer Prize in 1984. He was also a mentor to young Latinos in journalism.

July 25, 2011|By Keith Thursby and Ruben Vives, Los Angeles Times
  • George Ramos worked for The Times from 1978 to 2003, when he joined the journalism faculty at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
George Ramos worked for The Times from 1978 to 2003, when he joined the journalism…

George Ramos, a longtime reporter, editor and columnist at the Los Angeles Times who played a key role in a groundbreaking series on Latinos in Southern California that won the paper a Pulitzer Prize in 1984, has died. He was 63.

Ramos was found Saturday inside his Morro Bay home, said Det. Dale Cullum of the Morro Bay Police Department. Cullum said an officer was alerted by Karen Velie, a reporter at Cal Coast News, a local website where Ramos had been working as editor. Velie said the website's staff had been unable to reach Ramos for several days.

Cullum said Ramos had diabetes, and there was nothing suspicious about his death. The cause and when Ramos died will be determined by the San Luis Obispo County coroner, Cullum said.

Archives: Read Ramos' 1983 story about the barrio where he grew up

Ramos worked for The Times from 1978 to 2003, when he joined the journalism faculty at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

"He was a very strong street reporter, he knew Los Angeles very well," said Frank Sotomayor, a former Times editor who is an adjunct faculty member at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. "He was able to talk to people and get their stories."

Sotomayor and Ramos were co-editors of the Latino project, which received the Pulitzer gold medal for meritorious public service. Seventeen Latino journalists worked on the 27-part series.

In one piece, Ramos revisited his childhood home on North Record Avenue in East Los Angeles, where his grandmother still lived.

"The inhabitants of Record are poor but proud people, comfortable in the knowledge that they own their homes and owe little to an Anglo-dominated society," Ramos wrote. "To them, life on Record is as American as that in Kansas and hopes are as resilient as tall wheat in a summer breeze."

Sotomayor said the story was an example of another Ramos strength, a first-person account with writing "not only from the brain but from the heart."

Ramos was born Oct. 1, 1947. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo in 1969 and served in the Army from March 1970 to September 1971, in West Germany and South Vietnam. Ramos joined The Times after working for Copley News Service and the San Diego Union.

Steve Padilla, an assistant national editor at The Times, said Ramos would often speak about journalism and his East Los Angeles upbringing at various schools. "His impact as a mentor is something I don't know if we can calculate," Padilla said. Ramos served two terms as president of CCNMA: Latino Journalists of California.

Ramos also contributed to the paper's Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage of the 1992 Los Angeles riots and the 1994 Northridge earthquake.

Columnist Patt Morrison said Ramos sat behind her in the paper's newsroom for several years "and his voice could be heard across our corner, in English and in Spanish, giving no quarter to the public officials and gatekeepers who were, from the sound of it, giving him dodge-and-weave answers that he wouldn't put up with."

Ramos is survived by a brother.

Keith.thursby@latimes.com

Ruben.vives@latimes.com

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