1862, his great-grandparents met on a wagon train and were married on
the Bidwell Bar Bridge. He was born in the Curran Hospital on Robinson
Street in 1948, and has served as the Butte County District Attorney
for more than 18 years. Mike Ramsey grew up on Gawthorne Avenue with
his parents and younger sister, and still lives in Oroville. His father
is a longtime Oroville resident and served as a game warden from the
1930s to 1950s. Mike attended Eastside, Bird Street, and Central Middle
schools and graduated in 1966 from Oroville High School. "Las Plumas
High School first opened in 1962," Mike said, "so our OHS class was the
first to graduate with LP's class."
Butte County D.A. Mike Ramsey|
Mike was tiny as a freshman and played quarterback during the
OHS/LP football game. "I remember Jimmy Thompson picking me up and
throwing me around because I threw a touchdown pass and he was so
excited. I was only 5'2" and about 98 lbs.," he said. After Mike was
injured in football, he decided to try other sports. "I switched to
wrestling after that because they match you with someone your own size.
I was in the 'mosquito' league," Mike said smiling. He also boxed in
high school. Among his OHS classmates, 12 went on to become attorneys.
Mike received scholarships to attend UC Berkeley. "Oroville is
the greatest town," he said, "People were very generous with
scholarships that paid for my college tuition." During summers, Mike
worked in the cannery in Oroville. He studied at UC Berkeley for five
years, graduating with degrees in math, science, and history. Mike also
boxed and became the NCAA middleweight champion in 1969. "We only had
three schools in the league at the time; Berkeley, Chico, and Reno," he
said with a laugh. One time Mike was knocked down and saw "cartoon
stars," but his long arms helped to keep him from harms way.
After graduation, Mike learned the county school office was
looking for substitute teachers, so he began working as a teacher and
continued to work at the cannery. Mike also enjoyed fishing and wrote
some articles about it for the Oroville Mercury-Register. "When the
sports editor became ill, Dan Beebe Sr. asked if I would cover sports,"
Mike said. He had been editor of Tiger Tales in high school. Mike
became interim sports editor for the Mercury-Register and put out a
daily two-page sports section. "We had one page devoted to Little
League and high school sports," he said. When the sports editor
returned, Mike become a feature writer. His childhood friend Nick
Ellena had always been quite adventurous, like driving his VW bug from
Oroville to the tip of Chile. "One day when I get out of college," Mike
told him, "I want to go with you on an adventure." That day came when
Nick invited Mike to travel to South America, backpacking for three
months. "I got a leave of absence from the paper and was told I could
write stories, take photos, and mail them to the paper," he said. "I
became the paper's 'foreign correspondent,' Mike chuckled, "I mailed
three stories a week," he said. He didn't have e-mail or a computer in
those days, so the stories were hand written. "When I came back, I was
surprised to learn they had published everything I sent them," he said.
Mike became the newspaper's public safety and court reporter. "I
followed the cases in court and found criminal law fascinating," he
said. One day he had a revelation. "I can do this," he thought. After
covering the courts as a reporter for two years, he decided to go to
McGeorge Law School in Sacramento.
The first semester he had a paid internship researching law
for Oroville Deputy D.A. Jerry Hermansen. "I knew right away this is
exactly what I wanted to do," Mike said. He also interned for the
California State Attorney General on consumer law. His second semester,
he came back to Butte County D.A.'s office. When he became a 'bar
certified law student' he was permitted to try cases under the tutelage
of an attorney. He selected the jury and tried four cases, with three
guilty verdicts and one hung jury. While Mike studied for the bar exam,
he was hired at the Sacramento D.A.s office. In 1977, he graduated from
law school, and in 1978, Mike returned to Oroville and became a deputy
district attorney. "I remember the day was on my mom's birthday," he
After two years, Mike took on all felony cases dealing with
child abuse for the next seven years. "It used to be that different
attorneys would become involved at various stages, such as at the
preliminary hearing, trial phase, and sentencing. It was like an
assembly line. But that changed and I stayed with one victim all the
way through," he said. In child abuse cases, Mike said, "You witness
the depth of human depravity and height of human survivorship. It's
amazing how young people survive and have the courage to stand up to
evil and adversity."
Mike felt compassion for the children who were abused and has
worked to bring about many positive changes. The D.A.s office now has a
children's room with books and games. "We help them get through very
difficult times." Before, child victims had to be interviewed at the
minimum by a patrol officer, D.A. investigator, CPS worker, and
counselor. Now they are all brought to one place for the interview by a
trained expert, and it is videotaped and broadcast to the other
specialists. Mike was also involved with developing the Drug Endangered
Children's program with Sue Webber-Brown. "The narcotics officers at
that time were focusing on the drugs and arrests, and not thinking
about the children as victims," he said. The DEC coordinates with other
agencies to look after the best interests of children in drug homes.
"We thought we were behind the curve, and found out our program was not
only the first in Butte County, but also in the nation," Mike said.
Among most pressing issues today, he said, are drugs, a
tremendous upsurge in gang activity, identity theft and economic
crimes, like computer-age scams, drug and alcohol-related domestic
violence, and child abuse.
Mike also has to travel to various parole board hearings. "We
remind them of the facts of the case and present the people's side of
it," he said. Sometimes the board denies parole for a year, two years
or more and then Mike has to return on whatever future hearing date is
set. What does he find most rewarding? "When justice is done. And, that
doesn't just mean when someone is convicted that needs to be. It is
also exonerating those who are not guilty and about protecting people's
constitutional rights," he said. Mike also spoke about the importance
of the drug court. "It's not just about getting tough on crime. It's
about being smart on crime and getting to the root causes. With some
people, if you get rid of the addiction, the criminal activity ceases.
With others, they will commit crimes with or without the drugs," he
said. Mike also has a passion to create an integrated computer justice
system which coordinates information with other agencies.
In his spare time, Mike still enjoys sports and plays
basketball and softball in adult leagues. "We may be old, but we're
slow," he chuckled. He also scuba dives, but doesn't have much time for
travel these days. He enjoys television's Star Trek, listening to 60s
music like Bob Dylan, he has a passion for science, history and is
fascinated with forensic science. He said CBS's CSI is not reality and
gives jurors unrealistic expectations.
Mike has three grown daughters and a grandson. His wife Carol
is an attorney who heads the Child Support Services in Glenn County.
"She is amazing," Mike said. "I loved growing up in Oroville and was
blessed to have my parents," he said. "I dearly love Oroville. Growing
up, it felt like a Mayberry-type existence."