Changing America

Oldest active National Park ranger retires at 100

“It has proven to bring meaning to my final years,” Ranger Betty Reid Soskin said of her work.
Soskin Betty Reid
Soskin Betty Reid NPS Photo/Luther Bailey

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The National Park Service’s (NPS) oldest active ranger, Betty Reid Soskin, retired Friday at the age of 100. 

“Betty has made a profound impact on the National Park Service and the way we carry out our mission,” NPS Director Chuck Sams said in a press release. “I am grateful for her lifelong dedication to sharing her story and wish her all the best in retirement. 

Soskin, who turned 100 in September 2021, originally lived with her Cajun-Creole, African American family in New Orleans until the area was hit by the “Great Flood” in 1927, at which time her family relocated to Oakland, Calif.  

During World War II, Soskin worked as a file clerk in the segregated union hall for Boilermaker’s A-36. In 1945, Soskin and her husband, Mel Reid, opened Reid’s Records — one of the first black-owned music stores — which closed in 2019. 

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Just prior to joining the NPS, Soskin worked with the City of Richmond and the NPS to oversee management plans for establishing the Rosie the Riveter/WWII Home Front National Historical Park, where she’d eventually represent the NPS.  

“To be a part of helping to mark the place where that dramatic trajectory of my own life, combined with others of my generation, will influence the future by the footprints we’ve left behind has been incredible,” said Soskin. 

She began volunteering for the NPS in a temporary position when she was 84 and became a permanent employee in 2011. Soskin headed programs and shared personal anecdotes with visitors at the park’s visitor’s center, providing them with glimpses into the past and realities of both women and African Americans during World War II.  

“Being a primary source in the sharing of that history – my history – and giving shape to a new national park has been exciting and fulfilling,” said Soskin. “It has proven to bring meaning to my final years.” 

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