Skip to main content
Betty Taylor, 91.

Betty Taylor, 91.

Betty Taylor, 91, grew up in Kentucky and Illinois wanting to be a teacher, then went on to teach high school and college English for about 20 years while raising two children. During a sabbatical, she migrated west to Eugene, Oregon, for a year; two years later, she returned to complete a doctorate from the University of Oregon.

After retirement, Taylor wasn't satisfied with the candidates she saw running for Eugene's City Council. So, in 1996, she decided to run for a seat herself. Today, she's in her sixth term, at the end of which she'll have represented Eugene's second ward for 24 years. (She hasn't run for mayor, she says, because she'd "never want to raise that money.")

Taylor's focus is mainly on the environment, civil liberties, and renters' rights—"I've always been concerned about injustice," she says. Perhaps her most enduring legacy is helping to save the Amazon headwaters, a local wetland that was in danger of being developed until 2014, when Taylor successfully advocated for the council to buy and preserve 26 critical acres. She's currently working toward a resolution against oil trains passing through Eugene.

When asked whether she faces age discrimination, Taylor says: "Attitudes are sometimes condescending, but no. People like it that I'm old. Because they're getting old too, and they want to think they can still do something." Does she have advice for meaningful longevity? "I just do what I want to do," says Taylor, who is known for being plainspoken. "Just keep living."

Explore the complete list of visionaries making change after 80 here.