article from the Fall 1999 Spotlight
Still Busy After All These Years
From All-American athlete to W.W.II GI to Rose Parade Grand
Marshall, Ray Bartlett has done it all
By Fred Ortega
All-American football star, decorated army veteran, police detective, Rose Parade Grand Marshal. With all that on his resume, it's no wonder that 78-year-old Ray Bartlett is so busy nowadays.
The vivacious PCC alumnus and former Jackie Robinson teammate serves on numerous boards and committees, despite having retired in the early 1980s from the Los Angeles County Department of Social Services. He worked for the county for over 10 years, including a stint as deputy for County Supervisor Warren Dorn; all that after a 20-year illustrious career with the Pasadena Police Department. His extraordinary life serves as an example to all who have roamed the halls and classrooms of Pasadena City College, reminding us that greatness sometimes starts from humble beginnings.
Those humble beginnings for Bartlett began in the crude canvas tents that served as classrooms at what was then the Pasadena junior College campus. The classrooms, which were located where the V building now stands, were not exactly an optimal learning environment. "They were heated in winter, but boy was it hot in the summer," says Bartlett, who matriculated into PJC during the tenth grade. At the time, the school included both high school and college classes on the same campus. Once he graduated from the twelfth grade, he was able to move up to the newly renovated C, D and E buildings, where college courses were taught.
Bartlett was a voracious athlete, playing on the college's baseball, football, basketball and track teams. His first appearance in the college annual, the Campus, was in 1936 as a freshman standout who led the baseball team in batting. "Bartlett . . . is an outstanding Bullpup, and future laurels may be his," an article in the Campus said about his athletic performance. The prediction came true: Bartlett was eventually named to the All-Southern California team his senior year, along with his pal, Jackie Robinson.
That year, Robinson and Bartlett were the kings of the Pasadena gridiron, leading the Bulldogs (the mascot that was later passed on to Pasadena High) to 11 straight victories and the Southern California championship. They also held the Western Conference title along with Santa Monica City College. The 1939 Campus wrote glowingly about the two football prodigies, hailing Robinson's over 1000 rushing yards and their All Southern California nominations.
In Bartlett's yearbook that senior year, there was a little note written under the picture of Robinson, the now legendary Dodger. It said: "To a sweet player. Luck and happiness, here's hoping you come over next year. Sincerely, Jack." Robinson was referring to UCLA, and Bartlett took him up on the offer. The decision was a wise one; the two went on to lead UCLA football to new heights. Both went on to play on a professional football team in Hawaii.
It was while there that Bartlett's career in the Army started, and quite abruptly at that. Two days after Robinson returned to the mainland on his way to baseball immortality, Bartlett was caught up in the frenzy and horror of World War 11, he witnessed first hand the attack on Pearl Harbor. He eventually served two years of active duty in both the European and Pacific theaters. He then returned to his hometown to Join the Pasadena Police Department, where he reached the rank of detective. But even as a police officer, Bartlett remained a member of the U.S. Army Reserve Corps, serving in Korea and the Berlin Wall crisis. He retired from the armed forces as a Chief Warrent Officer in 1979.
Despite his many thrilling experiences, Bartlett regards his years at the college as some of the best of his life. "Our athletic years at PCC were very special, because we won the championship," he says. "Here we were, two people of color and we were the only All-Americans on the team!" He also is proud of the fact that both he and Robinson were the only two PCC athletes inducted into the California Community Colleges Hall of Fame, Robinson in 1984 and Bartlett in 1986. Besides his accomplishments as an All-American, Bartlett believes his nomination as Grand Marshall of last year's Tournament of Roses Parade was one of the greatest moments of his life. I would do it again tomorrow if they asked me to," he says of the event in which he represented his friend Robinson, who passed away in 1972.
Bartlett credits much of his personal success to the college. "I feel that PCC is a very fine institution," he says, "and even though there was some prejudice back when I was attending, it was still a great institution and still is to this day. I hold my head up high when I say that I went to Pasadena junior College." It must be hard to hold that head up with his postretirement schedule. Besides serving on the board of directors and executive committee of the PCC Foundation, Bartlett is involved with the Los Angeles County Human Relations Commission and is also on the board of directors of the Pasadena YMCA. Apparently, his diligence runs in the family; his son Robert is mayor of Monrovia and has been a member of the City Council for 24 years.
So next time you feel like complaining about the classes you have to take, or the homework that your teachers have assigned you, next time you wonder what PCC can offer you, think of one person and all he has accomplished. Think of I Ray Bartlett, and then feel foolish for complaining in the first place.
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