Dewey Follett Bartlett was born on March 28, 1919, in Marietta, Ohio. His father, David A. Bartlett, was a banker and investor who held oil properties in Oklahoma, including the Keener Oil and Gas Company. Dewey Bartlett attended the public grade schools of Marietta and graduated from Lawrenceville Preparatory School in Lawrenceville, New Jersey. He earned a bachelor of science degree in geological engineering from Princeton University in 1942 and received a commission as a Marine Corps pilot during World War II.
After the war, Bartlett joined his older brother David in Tulsa, where they managed Keener Oil. His political career began in 1962 with election to the Oklahoma state senate. In 1966, he defeated John N. Happy Camp in the primary to win the Republican gubernatorial nomination, and he bested Preston J. Moore in the general election to succeed Henry Bellmon as Oklahoma's second Republican governor.
The first state governor constitutionally eligible for a second consecutive term, Bartlett lost his reelection bid in one of the closest elections in state history to Democrat David Hall in 1970. Two years later, however, he benefitted from Richard Nixon's great popularity in Oklahoma to defeat Congressman Ed Edmondson in a race for a United States Senate seat. In Congress, he was one of the most conservative members on many issues. He also was a dependable champion of oil and gas interests during the energy-short 1970s.
After a year's treatment for lung cancer, Bartlett announced in January 1978 that he would not be a candidate for reelection. He died on March 1, 1979, and was buried in Tulsa's Calvary Cemetery.