Who Is Richard Overton?
Born on May 11, 1906, Richard Overton was a World War II veteran who served in the U.S. Army. On May 3, 2016, he became the oldest living American war veteran after fellow World War II veteran Frank Levingston of Louisiana died. Overton became a supercentenarian on May 11, 2016. He died on December 27, 2018.
World War II Military Career
Overton began his military career with the U.S. Army on September 3, 1940 at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. He arrived at Pearl Harbor with his black segregated unit immediately after the bombing by the Japanese. Between 1940-1945, he toured the South Pacific — the last three of those years with the 1887th Engineer Aviation Battalion — and achieved a technician fifth grade rank by the end of his military service.
Recognition as a Supercentenarian
In 2015 National Geographic released a short documentary eponymously entitled Mr. Overton, who was 106 at the time of filming.
Among his other accolades, Overton was honored by the San Antonio Spurs with a custom-made jersey in March 2017. A few months later when he celebrated his 111th birthday on May 11th, his community renamed the street he's lived on for seven decades as Richard Overton Avenue.
"111, that's pretty old, ain't it," Overton said at his birthday luncheon at the University of Texas club. "I can still get around, I can still talk, I can still see, I can still walk."
Austin's mayor also officially designated his birthday as Richard Overton Day. Previously, the World War II vet was honored by President Barack Obama during a Veteran's Day ceremony in 2013.
Born and Raised in Texas
Born in Bastrop County, Texas, Richard Arvin Overton was the son of Gentry Overton, Sr. and Elizabeth Franklin Overton Waters. He hailed from African-American, Irish and English descent and was a great grandson of John Overton Jr., whose father was political advisor to Andrew Jackson.
Life as a Civilian
After the war, Overton returned to Texas and established his life in Austin where he worked in a variety of furniture stores before finding employment at the Texas Department of the Treasury. He was married twice, never had children and outlived his closest relatives.
The home he lived in until his death was the same house which he built 70 years ago. He spent most of his time smoking his Tampa Sweet cigars — an average of 12 per day — and drinking whiskey (sometimes mixed with coffee, other times with Coke) on his front porch. Eager to see the sun rise, his days sometimes began at 3 a.m.
As Overton's health declined in recent years, his remaining living relatives launched a GoFundMe page in late 2016, so that the war veteran could live his days in the comfort of his home, rather than in an assisted living facility. Since November 2017 they had surpassed their $200K goal and along with donations from the Home Depot and Meals on Wheels, Overton had been able to have 24-hour care and a renovated home that offered him better accessibility and comfort.
Overton died of pneumonia on December 27, 2018.
The Secret to Living a Long Life
When asked what his secret is to living a long life, Overton simply replied that he had none. “I don’t have a secret," he told People. I am here because the man upstairs wants me to be here... He put me here, and he decides when it’s my time to go.”
READ ARTICLE: “Meet the Oldest Living U.S. Veteran” on HISTORY.
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