Richard Overton, America's Oldest World War II Veteran, Dies at 112
On December 28, Richard Overton of Austin, Texas died. At that time, the entire country lost a legend.
You see, Overton was no ordinary man. He was, in fact, America's oldest World War II veteran, and at 112 he was the oldest man in the United States. Overton died due to complications from pneumonia, but that’s not what people should focus on. Instead, people should focus on his extraordinary life.
As CNN reported, in 1942, Overton began his military career when he volunteered for the Army at the age of 36. He went on to serve with the 188th Aviation Engineer Battalion, an all-black unit, which was placed in various missions in the Pacific. Though at home Overton faced discrimination and segregation, he told The Statesman, “When we got out in the war, we were all together. There wasn’t no discrimination there. We were hugging each other—darn near kissing each other—because you could save some of them’s life.”
"He was there at Pearl Harbor when the battleships were still smoldering,” President Barack Obama said of Overton while honoring him at a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in 2013. “He was there at Okinawa. He was there at Iwo Jima, where he said. 'I only got out of there by the grace of God.’”
Following the war, Overton returned to the United States and built his home in Austin. There, he lived a rather quiet and modest life, working at a furniture store and as a courier, The Smithsonian reported. He retired at the ripe old age of 85. And in his elder years, he finally found the respect he so rightfully deserved.
As The Statesman explained, the Austin City Council declared his birthday, May 6, “Richard A. Overton Day.” The city also renamed his own street to Richard Overton Avenue, and he was even the subject of the documentary, “Mr. Overton.”
According to Overton himself, there was no secret pill, food, or secret that kept him going other than simply living the life he wanted. The food website Delish revealed that the veteran often dined on butter pecan ice cream and smoked several cigars a day. Last year, on his 112th birthday, he told Chris Davis of KXAN, “I feel fine every day. No pain and no aches.” His one last piece of longevity advice, which he shared with comedian Steve Harvey was simple: Just “keep living, don’t die.”