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'Trailblazer' Raymond Ramos dies at 85

Raymond Ramos, left, with this son, Assem. Phil

Raymond Ramos, left, with this son, Assem. Phil Ramos, in 1980 while the younger Ramos was also a Suffolk County correction officer. Credit: Handout

Former Suffolk County Correction Officer Raymond Ramos, who battled discrimination on the job in the 1970s and '80s, has died at age 85, his family said Tuesday.

Ramos, a former Brentwood resident who had lived in Tucson, Ariz., for the past 10 years, died Saturday at St. Catherine of Siena Medical Center in Smithtown, according to his son, Assemb. Phil Ramos (D-Brentwood).

A memorial service was scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at St. Anne's Roman Catholic Church, 88 Second Ave. in Brentwood.

Ramos, whose parents came from Puerto Rico, was one of four black and Hispanic correction officers who filed a federal lawsuit in May 1981 charging racial harassment and discrimination in hiring and promotion at the Suffolk County jail.

In 1985, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld a trial court finding in favor of Ramos and the other plaintiffs and ordered the county sheriff to take corrective action. "That was a brave move back then," his son said Tuesday. "He was very isolated, but he was a trailblazer and a very strong man -- a man with a strong sense of identity."

Raymond Ramos also organized the Bronze Shields, a group of minority workers in the sheriff's office.

"He was one of the first Hispanics in the department and it [the lawsuit] was a very difficult thing for him do to," said Jose Nunez, the current president of the Bronze Shields.

Ramos was born March 3, 1927, in Spanish Harlem, his son said. After his brother, Philip, was killed in action in North Africa during World War II, Ramos joined the U.S. Merchant Marine. He was rejected by the military because of an ear problem, his son said.

After 15 years in the Merchant Marine, he held a variety of jobs before becoming a correction officer in 1972. He retired in 1988. He had moved his family to Brentwood in 1957.

His son also became a correction officer, in 1979, but served only a brief stint before becoming a Suffolk police officer. Phil Ramos resigned that job to run for office 10 years ago.

"When he heard I was running for office, that was right up his alley," Phil Ramos said. "He was charged up about it. He got all his friends from the sheriff's office to come out and campaign for me."

The elder Ramos was predeceased by his wife of 50 years, Jenny, last year. In addition to his son, he also is survived by a daughter, Silvia Ramos, of Tuscon, and five grandchildren. His remains will be cremated and his ashes spread at the grave of his parents in St. Raymond's Cemetery in the Bronx, his son said.

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