Richard Overton, the country’s oldest World War II veteran and oldest man, has died at the age of 112.
A family member, Shirley Overton, said the Army veteran died Thursday evening at a rehab facility in Austin, Texas. He had been recently hospitalized with pneumonia.
Overton volunteered for the Army when he was in his 30s. He served with the 188th Aviation Engineer Battalion, an all-black unit, in the Pacific theatre, including Guam and Iwo Jima.
“He was there at Pearl Harbor when the battleships were still smouldering. 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,’ ” former President Barack Obama said while honouring Overton at a Veterans Day ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery in 2013.
Overton told CNN in 2013 that he credited God for his long life but admitted to enjoying his vices.
“I drink whiskey in my coffee. Sometimes I drink it straight,” he said when he was 107. “I smoke my cigars, blow the smoke out; I don’t swallow it.”
Texas Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement Thursday, “With his quick wit and kind spirit he touched the lives of so many, and I am deeply honoured to have known him.”
“Richard Overton made us proud to be Texans and proud to be Americans. We can never repay Richard Overton for his service to our nation and for his lasting impact on the Lone Star State,” Abbott added.