RAYMOND ALBERT PATTERSON, Jr., Commitment, vision and passion were not just words that described Raymond Albert Patterson, Jr. but distinguished his service and accomplishments as a teacher, coach, president, general manager, father, husband, and inspired human being. He was born, the only child of Corhea Walker and Raymond A. Patterson Sr., in Lafayette, Indiana on January 15, 1922. He passed away at home, as he desired, surrounded by his beloved wife, Ruth Eloise Gould Patterson and their five children, Wednesday, August 3, 2011 in Sugar Land, Texas.
Throughout nearly two decades as President and General Manager of the Houston Rockets, Patterson solidified Houston's place as a legitimate NBA basketball city. In 1976, Patterson traded to bring Houston Moses Malone, who eventually led the team to their first NBA Final in 1981. In 1977, Patterson was named NBA's Executive of the Year. Having won two consecutive coin flips Patterson picked first in both 1983 and 1984 NBA Drafts, yielding Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwan. The "Twin Towers," as they were known, led Patterson's Rockets to the NBA Finals a second time in 1986. Patterson's back-to-back coin flip wins led the NBA to institute the annual NBA Lottery, for the right to select the top college player. In 1989, Houston hosted the then most successful NBA All-Star Game in the Houston Astrodome. That game held the all time attendance record for two decades until the recent game in Cowboy's Stadium. Other notable NBA Hall of Famers who played for The Rockets during Ray's tenure included: Elvin Hayes, Calvin Murphy, Rick Barry and Rudy Tomjanovich. Though he retired in 1990, many of the players on the subsequent 1993-94 and 1994-95 NBA Championship teams were acquired during Patterson's tenure.
Patterson's success as a founding investor and first President of the Milwaukee Bucks in 1968 preceded his position in Houston. Following the inaugural season, Milwaukee won the coin flip for the right to select the top pick in the NBA draft. With that selection, Patterson picked UCLA's Kareem Abdul Jabbar (then Lew Alcindor) one of the NBA's All Time 50 Greatest Players and the league's dominant center for nearly two decades. The following year, Patterson traded for NBA great Oscar Robertson, the only player ever to average a triple-double for a season, giving the team two of the NBA's All Time Greats. The 1970-71 Milwaukee team had a 20-game winning streak on its way to winning the 1971 NBA Championship in only its third season.
Prior to his career in the NBA, from 1949 to 1953, Patterson returned to his prep school alma mater Wayland Academy to assume the duties as basketball coach and biology teacher while simultaneously assistant coaching UW's freshman basketball team. In 1953, though the youngest faculty member, Patterson was chosen by the then current Chairman of the Board, Sam Pickard, and President Weimer Hicks to serve as Headmaster of Wayland Academy. He and his wife Ruth devoted their time and energy to building a legacy of distinguished accomplishment at the Academy. During his Presidency, Wayland grew to be regarded as one of the pre-eminent boarding schools in the United States with attendees from 45 states and many nations. Graduates have attended some of the nation's top universities including Princeton, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Cal Tech and The Sorbonne in Paris.
In 1990, he was awarded Wayland's Alumni Achievement Award. In November, 2010 Wayland bestowed upon Patterson, the title of President Emeritus and Honorary Trustee. Ruth Patterson was also honored as an Honorary Graduate at the same time for her dedication to the Academy and its students.
Patterson had attended Wayland Academy as a student from 1936 to 1940 excelling as a letterman in football, basketball and track, as well as participating in drama, choir and student government. Following graduation, he attended the University of Wisconsin from 1941-1945 where he again, ran track, played basketball and captained the 1944 and 1945 Badger's basketball team. In 1944, "Radar Ray" was a First Team All Big 10 and College All American finishing second, to George Mikan, in Big 10 scoring. While at the University of Wisconsin, Ray met Ruth Eloise Gould of Crivitz, Wisconsin. They were married in 1945 upon Ruth's completion of her bachelor's degree. He was then drafted into the service and served by training soldiers in Florida. In 1946, he returned to complete his undergraduate degree at UW playing professional basketball for the Oshkosh All-Stars, Sheboygan Redskins and Midland's Dow Chemical in the NBL, a precursor to the NBA. He later earned a master's degree and also did doctoral work at UW. In recognition of his many accomplishments, Patterson was inducted into the University of Wisconsin's Sports Hall of Fame on September 7th, 2001.
Throughout his life, Ray enjoyed his wife, children, and grandchildren, as well as, music, poetry, philosophy, humor and a good scotch. His indomitable spirit lives on in the lives of all those he touched in his amazing life.
Ray is survived by his wife of 66 years, Ruth Eloise Gould Patterson, sons Ray (Pat) Patterson III, Steve Patterson, Elizabeth A. Graham, Margaret (Peg) Barnes, Pete T. Patterson and nine grandchildren.
A memorial for family and friends celebrating Ray's life will be held on Saturday, September 10, 2011 between the hours of 5pm and 9 pm at La Colombe D'Or (Grand Salon) 3410 Montrose, Houston, Texas 77006.
In lieu of flowers donations may be made to Wayland Academy in care of "The Raymond A & Ruth E Patterson Scholarship Fund". Office of Trent Jackson, Wayland Academy, 101 North University Avenue, Beaver Dam, Wisconsin 53916.
Published in Houston Chronicle on Aug. 14, 2011