The oldest man in the United States Richard Overton has died.
The America’s oldest World War II veteran died on Thursday Dec. 27th at the age of 112.
Overton would have been 113 on May 11, 2019, but the veteran had been hospitalized with pneumonia, his family said.
Overton volunteered for the Army starting in 1942 and served with the 188th Aviation Engineer Battalion, an all-black unit that served on various islands in the Pacific.
“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,”
Richard Overton was in his 30s when he volunteered for the Army and was at Pearl Harbor just after the Japanese attack in 1941. He once said that one secret to his long life was smoking cigars and drinking whiskey, which he often was found doing on the porch of his Austin home.
His recent birthdays drew national attention and strangers would stop by his house to meet him. Even well into his 100s, he would drive widows in his neighbourhood to church.
“With his quick wit and kind spirit he touched the lives of so many, and I am deeply honoured to have known him,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement Thursday, calling Overton “an American icon and Texas legend.”
“Richard Overton made us proud to be Texans and proud to be Americans,” the governor added. “We can never repay Richard Overton for his service to our nation and for his lasting impact on the Lone Star State.”
In 2013, former President Barack Obama honored Overton at a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery.