Laura Soulliere Gates began her National Park Service (NPS) career in 1975 as an architectural historian in the Western Regional Office in San Francisco. She was part of the original team documenting historic resources in western parks and contributed to the completion of a seminal work recognizing the significance of NPS and concessionaire rustic architecture. Her first permanent NPS assignment was with the Denver Service Center where she was cultural resource specialist for the Mid-Atlantic and North Atlantic Planning Teams. She was later hired as survey historian for what was at the time Southwest Region, where she researched and wrote historic structure reports and special history studies and served on park planning teams, to include that of Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve. Gates worked on the planning team for the Georgia O’Keeffe [Abiquiu] site, and conducted oral history sessions about the property with Miss O’Keeffe. She also provided expertise as an architectural historian to the Indian Assistance Program and worked with archaeologists and designers on the Hopi First Mesa Improvement Project, which brought electricity and water into the homes there.
Then Gates became involved in a number of planning, design, and research projects while working for the Denver Service Center, Southwest Region, and WASO. She completed the fieldwork, research, and write-ups on 33 properties for the Architecture in the Parks: National Historic Landmark Theme Study and wrote special studies on historic housing and historic roads in the national park system.
Gates then became superintendent at Arkansas Post National Memorial, working closely with the Quapaw Tribe of Oklahoma to preserve their ancestral lands at Arkansas Post. In 1998 she began work at Cane River Creole National Historical Park near Natchitoches, which would be her final duty station. Over her 17 years there, she oversaw the completion of management plans for both the park and the heritage area, the emergency stabilization and preservation of 64 historic vernacular buildings at two National Historic Landmarks, the initiation of visitor services, and other preservation and research projects. Under her leadership, Cane River Creole NHP became known for its exceptional partnerships with diverse regional communities, including Creole and African American communities, descendent families from the plantations, and a number of American Indian tribes connected to the area.
Before her retirement in 2015, Gates received the 2015 Superintendent of the Year Award for sustained quality management. Soon after, President James Henderson of Northwestern State University of Louisiana presented her with the “Nth Degree,” the highest non-academic honor bestowed by the university, in recognition of her tireless dedication to education, community service, and Northwestern State University. Reflecting on her NPS career, she expressed gratitude for those who had mentored her in national park stewardship her hope that she had “passed on that legacy of fearless dedication to the resources to our future leaders.”