Robert Harold Ratcliffe

May 26, 1945September 10, 2021

Robert Harold Ratcliffe, 76, died of complications from cancer at his home in Bethesda on September 10, 2021. Bob was a beloved, caring, brilliant man with an outstanding sense of humor. He is deeply missed by his loving family and friends, all of whom had come to rely on his wisdom, advice, companionship and laughter through the years.

Bob was born on May 26, 1945, in Jackson, Mississippi. He spent his early childhood in Ankara, Turkey; Charlottesville, Virginia; and other places before his family settled in Bethesda in 1957. Bob attended Landon School, where he made life-long friends, and went on to receive degrees from Trinity College and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. In 1968, he enlisted as an officer in the U.S. Army Medical Service Corps and served in Vietnam and Germany, where he met Michelle. They married in 1971, several months before Bob was discharged.

After the Army, Bob enrolled in law school at Boston University and started work as a lawyer with the Federal Communications Commission in Washington in 1975. His sons, Michael and John, were born in 1977 and 1980. In 1982, the family moved to a home in Bethesda that Bob spent years skillfully improving and maintaining. In 2014, he retired from the FCC as a distinguished member of the Senior Executive Service. A lawyer by profession, Bob also had a vast knowledge of carpentry, electronics, cars, and, as far as family and friends could tell, nearly everything else. Computers, amateur radio, movies, cribbage, photography, and, most recently, his electric car were favorite hobbies. Most of all, he loved spending time with family and friends, telling stories, sharing meals, and, especially, laughing.

Survivors include Michelle M. Ratcliffe, his wife of fifty years; sons Michael L. Ratcliffe (of Bethesda) and John K. Ratcliffe (of New York); cousins Anna Smith, Vincent DiFabio, Janet Coren, Yolanda Copley, Christopher Chancellor, and their families; and many wonderful friends and neighbors. A memorial service will be held at Joseph Gawler’s Sons on October 9. Those wishing to make a remembrance are requested to make a donation to Doctors Without Borders, one of Bob’s favorite charities, in lieu of flowers.


  • Memorial Service

    Saturday, October 9, 2021



Robert Harold Ratcliffe

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Christopher Chancellor

October 9, 2021

Our entire family attended Robert and Michelle’s beautiful wedding in 1971 in California. I was a 6 year old boy at the time, but the pageantry and truly memorable day will forever be etched in my mind; cousin Robert so well meticulously dressed in his military uniform and his beautiful bride, Michelle, with her blond hair and beaming infectious smile. The entire Ratcliffe family and his maternal family, the Chancellors, were there to witness a matrimonial setting that still shines today because of Cousin Robert and Michelle’s deep love for one another and for their families.

My dad, Lee Chancellor, loved Robert and his Bethesda cousins so much and we were so fortunate to spend so many wonderful holidays with our family at their childhood home on Bradley Boulevard. Martha Louise, Bob’s mother, was one of the most charming, kindest, thoughtful compassionate loving spirits with whom I have known in my lifetime. Bob’s father, Colonel Harold Ratcliffe, was one of the most honorable decorated humble and smartest men that I have had the privilege to have known as well. Cousin Robert truly was blessed with the beautiful attributes from both his mother and father and I am so thankful to have felt his love and compassion for his family up close. This world is a much better place because Cousin Bob was here to guide us, to hold our hands, and to truly inspire us to be our best and to enjoy every moment with family, which was his foundation. We love you Michelle, John and Michael.

Love always,

Christopher, Mary, Alexander & Nicholas

Linda Blair

October 7, 2021

“Let’s ask Bob.” Or, “What does Bob think.” Or, “Let’s go see what Bob says.” There may not be a figure high enough to capture the number of times Bob’s FCC colleagues spoke those or similar words. Truly, we considered him the locus of all knowledge, logic, and legal skill. If you had Bob’s blessing on a particular issue, you were probably going to be just fine.

But as others have written or said in my recent conversations with them, we treasured Bob for so much more than his encyclopedic knowledge. He was kind, calm, and most of all - just plain fun! His presence enriched all of our professional lives beyond words.

Linda Blair

Janice Wise

October 5, 2021

Bob ‘s immense warmth, knowledge and contagious laughter will always be my first memory of the man I was privileged to call friend and colleague. While not physically here, his gifts live on in his family, friends and the many strangers he made feel special.

David Donovan

September 27, 2021

Bob was my first boss at the FCC. I considered him to be a mentor and teacher. Bob was a brilliant lawyer and gifted writer. His service to the United States and the FCC can never be equaled. Above all, he was a good and honorable man. The world is a better place because of Bob. He will be missed. You and your family are all in my prayers. God bless