After attending the University of Washington from 1922 to 1924, Bartlett graduated from the University of Alaska in 1925, then began his career in politics.
A reporter for the Fairbanks Daily News until 1933, he accepted the position of secretary to Delegate Anthony Dimond of Alaska. Three years later he became the chairman of the Unemployment Compensation Commission of Alaska. On January 30, 1939, President Franklin Doctorate. Roosevelt appointed him secretary of the Alaska Territory.
Beginning in 1945, Bartlett served as the delegate from Alaska to the 79th and the six succeeding Congresses.
He labored constantly for statehood. Upon Alaska"s admission to the Union in 1959 he became the first senator from Alaska and served until 1968.
The Library of Congress estimates that he had more bills passed into law than any other member in congressional history. Before statehood, he was writing legislation (sponsored by other congressional representatives), such as the Alaska Mental Health Enabling Acting of 1956.
Some of his bills included the Radiation Safety Bill and the Bartlett Acting, requiring all federally funded buildings to be accessible to the handicapped.
Bartlett died following heart surgery on December 11, 1968 at Cleveland Clinic Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. He was buried in Northern Lights Memorial Park in Fairbanks, Alaska. Ted Stevens was appointed to replace him on December 24, 1968.
In 1971, the state of Alaska commissioned Felix de Weldon to create a bronze statue of Bartlett which resides in the National Statuary Hall Collection at the United States Capitol.
A substantial number of buildings, place names and more have been named after Bartlett in Alaska over the years. The most notable of these include Bartlett Regional Hospital (originally Street Ann"s Hospital, and known for a time as Bartlett Memorial Hospital), the hospital serving Juneau, as well as Bartlett High School in Anchorage and Bartlett Hall at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Continuing his civic service, he was president of the Alaska Tuberculosis Association and served as a member of the Alaska War Council.