MaVynee Betsch

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MaVynee Betsch, christened Marvyne Elisabeth Betsch (January 13, 1935 – September 5, 2005),[1] was an American environmentalist and an activist. She was better known as The Beach Lady, because she spent the better part of her adult life educating the public on the black history and environmental importance of American Beach. Born in Betsch lived at American Beach on Amelia Island, Florida, the African-American Hyannis port, where the crème de la crème of black society came to relax in the Jim Crow South. MaVynee’s millionaire great-grandfather, Abraham Lincoln Lewis, founded the beach, and she was raised in luxury. Her wealth and privilege vanished after she gave away her entire fortune to environmental causes.


Betsch was born in Jacksonville, Florida, into one of the preeminent black families in the South.[2] Her parents were Mary and John Betsch, and her great-grandparents were Abraham Lincoln Lewis, who founded Florida's oldest African-American beach, and Mary Kingsley Sammis, the great granddaughter of Zephaniah Kingsley and Anna Kingsley. Betsch was educated at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio, and after earning her bachelor's degree in 1955, moved to Europe, where she was an opera singer for ten years.[2][3]

Since 1975, Betsch dedicated herself to the preservation and protection of American Beach from development and destruction.[2][4]

Betsch died of cancer on September 5, 2005.[5]

She was posthumously honored as an Unsung Hero of Compassion by the Dalai Lama on November 12, 2005.[6]

Betsch is survived by her sister Johnnetta B. Cole, an anthropologist, and her brother, John Betsch, a jazz musician.

Betsch and American Beach have inspired two women to create documentaries on the subject: An American Beach, which focuses on the history of American Beach, with conversations with The Beach Lady, and The Beach Lady, a feature-length documentary.


  1. ^ "MaVynee Betsch", Obituaries – From Florida Times-Union, September 7 to September 8, 2005.
  2. ^ a b c "MaVynne 'Beach Lady' Betsch", The History Makers. Interview September 20, 2004.
  3. ^ "Travelogue", Jet, January 28, 1960, p. 40.
  4. ^ Alan Huffman, "An American Beach", National Trust for Historic Preservation.
  5. ^ Amelia A. Hart, "A farewell to the Beach Lady",, October 26, 2005.
  6. ^ "Beach Lady to Meet the Dalai Lama", Nowhere productions.

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