Local News

Richard Overton, America’s Oldest Veteran, Passes Away at 112

By  | 

We hate spam too, we'll never share your email address

 

 

Richard Overton, a renowned resident of Austin, has passed away at the age of 112. He was America’s oldest man and the oldest World War II veteran. His death was confirmed on the evening of Thursday, December 27, as a result of complications from pneumonia.

Over the years, Overton had earned a place in the hearts of his neighbors and community. He lived a storied life, although to see the simple ways in which he enjoyed it, you’d never know his background. In 1942, he volunteered for the U.S. Army, serving with the 188th Aviation Engineer Battalion. It was an all-black unit, and Overton did much of his duty on a number of islands in the South Pacific. As a result, he was present at some of the most infamous dates of the war. Honoring Overton at Arlington National Cemetery five years ago, during a Veterans Day ceremony, President Barack Obama said, “He was there at Pearl Harbor when the battleships were still smoldering. 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 Texas Hill Country, working until retirement, after which he was known to spend sometimes up to 10 hours on his front porch, which many referred to as his “stage.”

Richard Overton, America's Oldest Veteran, Passes Away at 112

Photo: Facebook/Richard Overton

It was the personality of Richard Overton that became his hallmark. The street on which he resided in the city of Austin was renamed in his honor some time ago. His neighbors on Richard Overton Avenue loved seeing him and hearing his quick wit. Having met celebrities, politicians, and athletes, he was undoubtedly asked the secret to his longevity. His response was that God and cigars were integral to it all. In a prior interview with CNN, he explained that he didn’t take medicine, and he did enjoy his vices, noting: “I drink whiskey in my coffee. Sometimes I drink it straight. I smoke my cigars, blow the smoke out; I don’t swallow it.”

Richard Overton, America's Oldest Veteran, Passes Away at 112

Photo: Facebook/Richard Overton

Overton was the subject of a short documentary in 2015. Aptly titled, “Mr. Overton,” it was filmed by Texas Hill Country filmmakers Matt Cooper and Rocky Conly. In it, he said, “I eat ice cream every night. It makes me happy…I still walk, I still talk, and I still drive,” and then he got into his custom Ford F100 pickup. Whatever the key to his long life, Richard Overton found a way to speak to people’s hearts. His 112th birthday was celebrated just this year with friends and family at his home. Local media reported on the milestone event at which t-shirts were being sold to fundraise for Overton’s continued care at home. On the shirts were printed a saying which Overton was reported to have shared with comedian and TV host Steve Harvey when asked about his secret to such a long life. Funny, poignant, and just what you’d expect from the centenarian, they read: “Keep living, don’t die.”