George Ramos liked to describe himself as "just a Mexican kid from East L.A."
The three-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, a 25-year veteran of the Los Angeles Times, died alone last weekend, far from those East L.A. roots.
Morro Bay police found Ramos, 63, dead in his condo. It's believed he died of complications from diabetes.
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Amid all the news this week: Gov. Jerry Brown's nomination of a state supreme court justice, the ongoing fight in Washington over the debt ceiling, wrangling over collection of the so-called "Amazon" on-line tax, what stands out for me is how stories like those will be covered by future journalists.
That's where Ramos comes in.
He left the Times in 2003 to teach journalism at his alma mater, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.
"He was an accomplished mentor," said a heart-broken Tracy Campbell, who chairs the J-school's alumni advisory board. "He had no children of his own, and so those students became his children, per se."
Campbell says Ramos never made a big deal of his three Pulitzers, or of the personal cash he spent on scholarships and other department needs. He just cared deeply about training aspiring journalists.
He was a gruff and sometimes tough teacher. I appreciated his dry wit, and his struggles to bring his street smarts to the academic world.
George made a difference, to students, to the Latino community, and to the world of journalism. I will miss him.