Ray Barbuti was born in Nassau County, New York and attended Syracuse University where he won the IC4A championship at 400 m in 1928 in a time of 48.8 seconds, and once scored eight touchdowns in one game. In the same year, he won the AAU Championship in the 400 m dash with a time of 51.4.
His trainer, Peter Poole, let him run his two preferred distances, the 200 yd and the 400 yd, very seldom in the same competition, so Barbuti chose to run only the 400 m at the 1928 Summer Olympics. He won 400 m with a time of 47.8 and as anchor on the US 4 x 400 m relay he won his second gold medal in a world record time of 3:14.2.
Ray Barbuti died in Canaan, New York, aged 83 because of an illness.
On December 24, 1957, Ray Barbuti appeared as a "contestant imposter" on the game show To Tell the Truth. This episode is still in existence and was most recently aired by GSN on January 20, 2009. The host was Bud Collyer and the panel consisted of Betsy Palmer, Don Ameche, Kitty Carlisle and Hy Gardner.