At 100 years old, Betty Reid Soskin—aka Ranger Betty—became the oldest active park ranger for the National Park Service (NPS). Now, Ranger Betty has finally decided to retire—something that is certainly well earned! Soskin’s retirement marks the close of an influential 16-year-career with the NPS. In the early 2000s, the NPS and the city of Oakland, California, began planning for a new national park. a then-84-year-old Soskin was passionately interested in the park’s theme and played an active role alongside the NPS on a research project “to uncover untold stories of African-Americans on the Home Front during World War II.” She’s been sharing her research and her own experience as a woman of color during the Second World War with park visitors ever since.
“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,” Soskin admits. And her efforts have not gone unnoticed. “Betty has made a profound impact on the National Park Service and the way we carry out our mission,” says NPS Director Charles F. “Chuck” Sams. “Her efforts remind us that we must seek out and give space for all perspectives so that we can tell a more full and inclusive history of our nation.”
Soskin’s work and pioneering approach have also had a broader impact on how the NPS shares stories about racism, marginalization, and discrimination. The park ranger has received coverage from various media outlets, including a piece in The New York Times. She stepped into the spotlight during the 2013 federal government shutdown when she urged lawmakers to act so that she can return to her work. In 2015, she ws invited to participate in a tree lighting ceremony at the Obama White House. During the pandemic, she held weekly virtual talks.