Younkin, Ruth Ward (1915–1980)

By: Kenneth E. Austin

Type: Biography

Published: February 1, 1996

Updated: April 6, 2019

Ruth Ward Younkin, Arlington civic leader, daughter of Jessie Ray and Henrietta Ward, was born on October 28, 1915, at Ogden, Utah. Her father was a United States marshal for the state of Utah. Ruth's education at the University of Utah was interrupted in her third year with the unexpected death of her father in 1936. She left the university and took a job with the Home Owners Loan Corporation, where she worked as a secretary under Brigham Young, a grandson of the founder of the Mormon Church and Salt Lake City. In 1939 she became a secretary in the Soil Conservation Service in Price, Utah, where she met her future husband, George Younkin, the assistant chief clerk. They were married on December 27, 1939, in Garden City, Kansas. Soon after their marriage George received posting within the federal government to several locations across the country, including Washington, D.C., Seattle, Washington, and Orlando, Florida. During that time they had three children. In 1951 George was sent to the National Archives Records Management office in Fort Worth, where their son was born. George Younkin's job required travel to many areas of the nation to gather and examine documents for the National Archives. Ruth accompanied her husband frequently and proved a valuable help. As their interest and respect for the Native American culture grew, the knowledge transferred itself to other areas. Their involvement with the Kiowa tribe of Oklahoma was particularly close. The Younkins' association with Camp Fire Groups, Girl Scouts, and Boy Scouts served as a vehicle for preserving the traditions of the Indians. In 1952 Ruth became a Blue Bird leader and served as a summer day camp director for the North District Dallas between 1953 and 1954. She established a second Camp Fire Group at Kooken Elementary School. Her interest and research into the life of Indian women resulted in the formation of the NA TA YA Indian Dance Team for girls in 1961 and the Talako Dance Team for the Boy Scouts of America. The groups made original costumes and studied the traditions of the Native American culture through their pow-wows and ceremonies. Ruth established the first courses for Indian lore and crafts. Her association with the dance team ended in 1969. The Younkins' work also took them into the public schools to share information about the Indian cultures. Ruth gathered clothing for distribution among those in need in western Oklahoma. She earned the admiration and respect of the Indians there. She was also given the Silver Beaver Award by the Boy Scouts of America, scouting's highest award, on November 27, 1979. She served as an assistant to the secretary-treasurer for the Society of Southwest Archivists from 1972 until 1978 and for the treasurer from 1978 until 1980. The society contributed money for books dealing with Indian history in her name and donated them to the University of Texas at Arlington. Ruth Younkin was honored posthumously in the Texas Women's Hall of Fame ceremony, sponsored by the Governor's Commission for Women, on September 18, 1986. She was a member of the Society of American Archivists, the Society of Southwestern Archivists, the National Association of Retired Federal Employees, and the Westerners' Fort Worth Corral and a charter member of the Church of the Good Shepherd. Younkin died on January 23, 1980, in Arlington. Her body was cremated and her ashes scattered over the Wichita Mountains in Oklahoma.

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Arlington Citizen-Journal, January 16, 1961, January 25, 1980. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin (George Younkin).

  • Women
  • Activism and Social Reform
  • Civic Leaders
Time Periods:
  • Great Depression
  • World War II
  • Texas Post World War II
  • North Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Kenneth E. Austin, “Younkin, Ruth Ward,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 27, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

February 1, 1996
April 6, 2019

This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: