Nation's Oldest Man and WWII Veteran, Dies at 112
Austin resident Richard Overton, who was America's oldest man and oldest war veteran, died Thursday. Overton, who was honored for his military service and beloved for his propensity to enjoy his supercentenarian status with a cigar in one hand and a glass of whiskey in another, was 112 years old.
He died Thursday evening at a rehabilitation facility in Austin, said his cousin Volma Overton Jr. Before entering the rehab facility on Christmas Eve, he had been hospitalized with pneumonia at St. David's Medical Center for more than a week.
Richard was a Corporal during World War II and served with the 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion. He is a super-centenarian and is America’s oldest living combat veteran and oldest living American.
He was born in Bastrop County, Texas on May 11, 1906. He gave up his opportunity to attend college to enlist in the Army during WWII and served in the Pacific theater from 1942 to 1945. He was a part of the all-black 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion, fighting in places like Iwo Jima, Guam, Hawaii, and Okinawa. Richard worked as base security, a Jeep driver for a Lieutenant, and burial detail.
He says he did see his share of enemy fire, but “didn’t get a scratch.” While he’s not physically hurt, he is burdened by some of the memories of the war, recalling that he had to do things he did not want to do. After his service, he came home to a country still divided by race, and faced much discrimination, hardly gaining the respect he deserved as a veteran. Nonetheless, he held his head high and carried on with honor, never losing his sense of humor or optimism about life. He worked at local furniture stores, and later worked with the Texas Department of the Treasury in Austin. Though he retired at age 65, his employer kept pushing him to come back and was hired four more times, until he finally quit when he was near 100 years old.
In an interview with NBC, he said, “I feel good. A little old, but I’m getting around like everybody else.” Richard claims that there is no secret to longevity, but does have a rather unusual routine: he spikes his morning coffee with whiskey. He keeps active by trimming the trees, cleaning driveways, and helping with the horses. Above all else, he never thinks about death, and only focuses on living.