Betty Reid Soskin

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Betty Reid Soskin

Betty Reid Soskin (born Betty Charbonnet; September 22, 1921) is a Park ranger with the National Park Service, assigned to the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California.[1][2] As of 2014, she is the oldest National Park Ranger in the United States.[3]

Life and career[edit]

She was born in Detroit to Dorson Louis Charbonnet and Lottie Allen, both natives of Louisiana. Her father came from a Creole background and her mother from a Cajun background. She spent her early childhood living in New Orleans until a hurricane and flood destroyed her family's home and business in 1927. Her family then relocated to Oakland, California.

During World War II she worked as a clerk for Boilermakers Union A-36, a Jim Crow all-black union auxiliary. In June, 1945 she and her husband, Mel Reid, founded Reid's Records in Berkeley, California, a small Black business specializing in Gospel music. They moved to Walnut Creek, California in the 1950s, where their children attended better public schools but the family encountered considerable racism. She became active in the local Unitarian Universalist congregation and the Black Caucus of the Unitarian Universalist Association. During the 1960s she wrote and performed songs, many dealing with civil rights and peace.

Reid's Records in Berkeley, California

In 1972 she divorced Mel Reid and married William Soskin, a psychology professor at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1978 Mel Reid's health and finances had declined, and she took over management of the music store, which led to her becoming a prominent community activist.[4] Reid's Records is still in business in 2014.

She served as field representative for State Assemblywomen Dion Aroner and Loni Hancock, and through that position became involved in the development of the Rosie the Riveter/World War II Home Front National Historical Park. She is currently employed as a park ranger for the National Park Service working as tour guide and interpreter. There, she "has been a tireless voice for making sure the African-American wartime experience — both the positive steps toward integration and the presence of discrimination — has a prominent place in the park's history".[5]


  • California Woman of the Year, California Legislature, 1995.
  • Builders of Communities and Dreams, National Women’s History Project, 2006.
  • Attended President Obama's Inauguration as a guest of Rep. George Miller.
  • Proclamation by Richmond Mayor Gayle McLaughlin on behalf of Richmond City Council, 2009
  • Received honorary doctorate at California College of the Arts at Spring Commencement of 2010.
  • Received the WAVE award as one of 3 "Women of Achievement" by Girl Source of San Francisco 2010.
  • Cited in "Wherever there's a fight - the history of the ACLU in California" - Elaine Elinson & Stan Yogi, 2007


External links[edit]