Robert “Bob” Bartlett, a longtime attorney in the Dayton region who handled First Amendment cases and other work, died this past week, according to legal associates and friends.
Routsong Funeral Home is handling arrangements but details had not been released Saturday about when services will be held.
Bartlett was a Dayton-based attorney who beginning in the 1960s represented the Dayton Daily News and members of the Cox Family which owned the newspaper and its parent company, Cox Enterprises.
In the late 1990s, Bartlett led the successful legal effort by the Dayton Daily News to obtain access to Department of Defense medical records. The records informed coverage by reporters Russell Carollo and Jeff Nesmith of significant inadequacies in the medical services the U.S. military gave members of the services and their families. The coverage was awarded the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting and led to pledges by the government that the situation would improve.
For the Dayton Daily News and other media clients, Bartlett also waged numerous successful legal challenges that kept government records open to the public and maintained the public’s access to certain trials and court proceedings.
“Bob was an amazing force for democracy and the free press in Dayton,” said Dayton Daily News publisher Jana Collier. “His passion for the First Amendment was unmatched, and his legal guidance helped the Dayton Daily News cover some of its most important stories. He was also a great storyteller and a lot of fun to work with. I loved listening to Bob and learning from him. He was one-of-a-kind, and we will miss him greatly.”
Bartlett also represented local station WHIO-TV, and received the Defense of First Amendment Award from the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists for his services.
Erin Rhinehart, attorney and co-managing partner with Faruki PLL, who worked with Bartlett, said, “Bob was one-of-a-kind. He lived his life by his terms – and always with a sense of humor. It was an honor to practice with him; he was a true advocate of the First Amendment and fought tirelessly for his clients – many of whom trusted his guidance and advice for decades. He will be missed.”
Bartlett graduated from the Ohio State University law school in 1963 and came to Dayton, joining the firm Estabrook, Finn and McKee. He worked for several firms over the decades, including Porter, Wright, Morris and Arthur as well as Coolidge, Wall, Womsley and Lombard. He retired as a member of the firm Faruki, Ireland and Cox.
“The Faruki firm mourns the loss of Bob Bartlett,” said Jeff Ireland, a long-time partner with the firm. “He was a formidable trial attorney who, for nearly 50 years, defended Cox Enterprises and its First Amendment freedoms. He had a zest for life and humorous stories about many characters he encountered during his career. We will miss his humor, passion for the law and laughter. Our thoughts are with his family and loved ones.”
Visitation will be 4 to 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 28, at Routsong Funeral Home, 2100 E. Stroop Rd., Kettering. Funeral services will be 11 a.m. Thursday, April 29, at the First Baptist Church of Dayton, 111 W. Monument Ave. People attending are asked to wear a face mask and observe social distancing guidelines. A livestream of the services will be available on the Routsong channel of youtube.com.