Thomas Willard Bartlett was a legendary sports writer, who strongly promoted the need for all baseball team coaches to have American Red Cross Standard First Aid training and for every game to have immediate access to a portable folding stretcher, portable oxygen, and a first aid kit. Bartlett was born in 1918 in Lagrange, Georgia, the son of Thomas Olin Bartlett, an iconic local Masonic Lodge member and school teacher. Tragically, Olin passed away the following year, a victim of the 1918 Spanish Flu outbreak, so Bartlett was raised by his mother, Carrie. In his early teens, Bartlett was impacted in the head by a baseball while playing on a team in LaGrange, Georgia. He was immediately rushed to the Scottish Rite Children’s Hospital in Decatur, some 80 miles to the North, where neurosurgeons were able to relieve the growing cranium pressure and saved his life. Later, Bartlett would have the opportunity to complete a Red Cross First Aid Course and would soon start coaching the local LaGrange-based Callaway Mill baseball team, where he often provided first aid care to injured players and attendees.

He began writing sports articles for the local Lagrange Daily News and started his crusade to improve baseball player first aid care and safety during games. He introduced the idea of requiring both batters and pitchers to wear a helmet but received little attention from league officials of that era. He was then appointed the sports editor for the LaGrange Daily News, where he remained until he moved to Atlanta to work for The Texas Company (Texas Oil Company) at the outbreak of World War II.

When the tragic Winecoff Hotel Fire occurred in downtown Atlanta in 1946, the Texas Company building, immediately adjacent to the Gaurranty Trust building, allowed Atlanta firemen to rescue many survivors from a tragic fire that killed over 140 people. A few years later, the company, now Texaco, moved into a new building at West Peachtree Street, NW and 8th Street. This new location was across from the Atlanta Academy of Medicine, which was the local medical society office. Bartlett then had the opportunity to meet some prominent Atlanta orthopedic physicians and discuss the need for improved baseball team player medical care and first aid equipment. One of the physicians happened to be the team doctor for the then farm league “Atlanta Crackers.” That physician did listen to Bartlett and began requiring a local funeral home’s first aid equipped and first aid trained attendant ambulance to stand-by at local games on Ponce De Leon Avenue stadium, across from the old giant Sears Department Store. Bartlett still continued to cover local baseball games as a part-time sports writer for the Atlanta Journal & Constitution newspaper, promoting baseball game safety and first aid training during the 1950s and early 1960s.

In 1965, Thomas Willard Bartlett was transferred to Texaco’s Bellaire Office and later to its Rusk Street Texas headquarter. During his time in Houston, from 1965 to 1970, he discontinued his sports writing but became a Houston Astros fan, attending the first of many baseball games at the newly opened Astrodome. During that era, he had the opportunity to meet the Astros’ team physician and was shown the vast improvements for player emergency and general medical care that were now in place, including both a stand-by ambulance and golf-cart unit. Bartlett then realized that his long decades of advocacy had truly resulted in both player medical care and safety equipment protection. This gave him great comfort that he had achieved God’s plan for him during his time on Earth.

In 1982, Bartlett retired after forty years as an accountant at TEXACO, which would later be renamed Texaco-Chevron. Even after retirement, he remained an active Atlanta Braves fan and witnessed the continued improvements in both baseball emergency care and player safety equipment. Sadly, he passed away on February 9, 1993, following a year-long battle with lung cancer at Piedmont Hospital in Atlanta. He was buried in his hometown of Lagrange, and his wife of 47 years, Bertie Bartlett, was laid to rest alongside him on December 11, 1995. Thomas Willard Bartlett will long be remembered for his dedicated efforts in promoting first aid training for coaches, having first aid equipment at every game, and more generally, for promoting safety for all players.


Submitted to NEMSM July 2007 by Ed Bridges