Assemblymember Tony Thurmond (D-Richmond) and the members of the California Legislative Black Caucus has honored Ms. Betty Reid Soskin, 94, a Richmond resident and the nation’s oldest full-time park ranger.
She was recognized as an “Unsung Hero” – the Black History Month honoree from Assembly District 15.
Betty Reid Soskin, (née Charbonnet) grew up in a Cajun/Creole African-American family that settled in the East Bay after the historic floods that devastated the New Orleans in 1927.
Her parents joined her maternal grandfather George Allen, who had resettled in Oakland at the end of World War I.
Soskin attended local schools, graduating from Castlemont High during the World’s Fair at Treasure Island.
She worked in a segregated Union hall, Boilermaker’s A-36, during World War II as a file clerk. In 1945, she and her young husband, Mel Reid, founded a still-existing small Berkeley music store — Reid’s Records.
She has since held positions as staff to a Berkeley city council member and as a field representative serving West Contra Costa County for two members of the California State Assembly: former Assemblywoman Dion Aroner and Senator Loni Hancock.
In 1995, Soskin was named a “Woman of the Year” by the California State Legislature. In 2005, she was named one of the nation’s 10 outstanding women, “Builders of communities and dreams” by the National Women’s History Project, in ceremonies in both Griffiths Park in Los Angeles, and in Washington, D.C.
“I’m honored to know Ms. Soskin and share her commitment to social justice,” said Assemblymember Thurmond. “As a great-granddaughter of a slave, she sees her job as a park ranger as more than preservation, but as an advocate sending a message to all young girls of color that they too can choose this profession as a career.”
Most recently, she was invited by President Obama to join him in the 2015 National Christmas tree lighting ceremony.
She is currently employed as a park ranger for the Rosie the Riveter World War II/Home Front National Historical Park in Richmond, California, assigned to civic engagement and community outreach.