Born in Oakdale, Illinois, on July 9, 1882, Norman F. Ramsey, Sr. and his family moved to Kansas, where he enlisted at age 15 in the 20th Kansas Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the Spanish American War. After fighting insurrectionists in the Philippines, he was discharged from the 20th Kansas in 1899 with the rank of corporal and graduated from the US Military Academy in 1905.
Although commissioned an Infantry officer, Ramsey was detailed to Ordnance duties first at Sandy Hook Proving Ground, then in the Office of the Chief of Ordnance, and subsequently at Rock Island Arsenal. In 1918, he joined the American Expeditionary Forces in France during World War I, serving as Chief of the Supply Division, Office of the Chief Ordnance Officer, and then as Chief Ordnance Officer, Service of Supply, Third Army.
Ramsey transferred to the Ordnance Department in 1920 and, from 1922 to 1926, commanded Picatinny Arsenal, New Jersey, the repository of expertise in artillery shell loading and the laboratory for explosives and powder research. From 1931 to 1933, he was the Ordnance Officer for the Second Corps Area. From 1933 to 1937, he served first as the Chief of the Artillery Division, and then as Chief of the Ammunition Division, in the Manufacturing Service, Office of the Chief of Ordnance. While serving in the Office of the Chief of Ordnance, he was appointed to chair what became known as the Ramsey Board. In anticipation of the need to expand Ordnance infrastructure, this board developed plans for the location and organization of new manufacturing, storage, and maintenance facilities.
Ramsey made his most significant contributions in 1937 through 1944 as Commander of Rock Island Arsenal. During this command, he assumed responsibility for the massive expansion of the Arsenal's mission in support of World War II and established an Apprenticeship School to train a workforce that had expanded from 618 in 1924 to 18,675 in 1943. To support World War II, the Arsenal produced 85,000 machineguns, hundreds of thousands of machinegun barrels, and tens of thousands of artillery carriages, recoil mechanisms, and gun mounts. It also rebuilt hundreds of thousands of machineguns, rifles, vehicles, engines, and fire control instruments. In addition, the Arsenal served as a research and development center for dozens of weapons systems and housed one of four master depots with a main warehouse that covered the equivalent of 17 football fields.
BG Ramsey retired in 1944 but, at the Chief of Ordnance's request, returned to active duty to command Springfield Armory until December 1945. He died in 1963 with more than 43 years of distinguished service to the Army.