SOMERVILLE NJ - Former Assemblyman and State Senator Raymond Bateman, a giant in politics, public policy and education whose career spanned six decades, died early Saturday morning at age 88.
Bateman was a beloved husband, father and grandfather. At the time of his death, Bateman served on the Board of Trustees of Raritan Valley Community College, where he had served since 1979.
His son, state Sen. Christopher "Kip" Bateman (R-16th) followed his father into politics, representing Somerset County and portions of other central New Jersey counities in the state Senate.
“My father embodied everything that a public servant should be,” said Sen. Bateman. “He was always interested in helping others, and he instilled in me the belief that public service matters. He set an extremely high standard for all of us who follow.
“He also was dedicated to his family, and we always came first," the senator added. "His loss will be immense, but we couldn’t be prouder of the life he lived and happier about the time we had with him. Thank you to everyone who has reached out to us.”
The elder Bateman enjoyed an illustrious career in politics and in state government. He was born and raised in Somerville, and graduated from Somerville High School at a time when Somerset County had only four high schools.
His mother was a French teacher and his father was the publisher of the Somervile Messenger-Gazette, where he started his work life.
A military veteran, Bateman served in Japan following World War II. After he served in the military, he attended Wesleyan University, graduating in 1950. After graduating from Wesleyan, Bateman attended the Woodrow Wilson School of Government at Princeton University. Bateman left the Wilson School to start his career in politics.
During the 1950s Bateman served four years as executive director of the New Jersey Republican State Committee and a legislative aide to then-Sen. Malcolm Forbes. He also served a key role in Americans for Eisenhower, the group that recruited the late President Dwight D. Eisenhower to run for president.
At the age of twenty-nine, he was elected to the State Assembly from Somerset County. He served ten years in the Assembly, followed by ten years in the State Senate. Bateman occupied leadership positions in both houses.
During his tenure in the legislature, Bateman was responsible for landmark legislation that helped shape the New Jersey and the Somerset County we know today. He was a driving force behind the legislation that created the Green Acres program and the legislation that enabled the creation of the county colleges.
In 1977, Bateman was nominated by the GOP to run for governor, but he lost the general election to Democrat Brendan Byrne.
Following his legislative career, Bateman dedicated himself to Raritan Valley Community College in Branchburg. There are some who refer to RVCC as "The House that Ray Built". He had served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the college for 36 years, attending meetings and serving as chair of the Governance Committee through April 2016.
Bateman chaired the Board of Trustees for 25 years. During his tenure Bateman spearheaded the growth, expansion, and success of RVCC. During his tenure Hunterdon County joined Somerset County in RVCC, establishing RVCC as the first community college in New Jersey to serve two counties,
RVCC constructed its Theatre at RVCC with $2 million in private donations raised to match public funding; RVCC established the first childcare center at a community college in NJ; RVCC opened its the planetarium; and established the Somerset County Police Academy on campus.
The student activity center is named for him.
Senate Republican Leader Tom Kean released the following statement:
“When it came to public service, Senator Ray Bateman was a giant. He was one of the people that I admired most growing up in a family that followed a similar path. He’s someone that many of us who serve now try to emulate.
“I would like to offer my deepest condolences to his family, and to his son, my friend Senator Kip Bateman, with whom I have the honor to serve.”
Follow TAP for updates as Somerset County reacts to the passing of Raymond Bateman.